Ten years ago, Spencer Smith opened his first Aaron’s furniture store franchise in his hometown of Cortez with lofty hopes of growing his franchise holdings to 10 regional stores.
Today, Smith has 44 Aaron’s stores in eight states, and on Dec. 11, the store that started it all officially reopened in a new, more modern home just up the road, at 1620 E. Main St.
Smith is very excited about the move and what it signifies in terms of the success of the business, but admits it’s a bit surreal to say goodbye the original store that was the nexus of Aaron’s regional growth.
“I used to have an office on the back of the warehouse, and on Monday it was demolished,” said Smith. “A bit of the flooring is still down there, and it’s sentimental to look at that and see how far we’ve come.”
The 2008 recession was a hard time for Smith’s holdings, but sales have rebounded in recent years.
“The recession was a challenge. Each year, we’ve been adding back, and we’re now starting to approach sales levels we saw before the recession.”
Part of the strategy in finding good markets to set up shop, Smith says, is looking for characteristics similar to those of Cortez.
“We are in a lot of rural markets. Three-fourths of our stores are in smaller markets like Cortez or our Page, Arizona, store,” he said.
All 13 employees from the original Aaron’s, at 2288 E. Main St., have transferred to the new store, including Bevin Horton, who started at the original store in 2005 and has witnessed firsthand the regional growth of Aaron’s.
“I’ve seen it evolve a lot… The biggest change would have to be the upper management,” said Horton. “As we grew, upper management at the regional increased too, but we’ve never had the problem of having several managers telling you different things on what to do – everyone’s on the same page. When we opened, they were out here with jeans and dollies working.”
While the new Main Street is only a few hundred square feet larger than the original store, the more open layout and modern design aesthetics give the impression of a bigger space, he said.
Merchandise has largely stayed the same from the original location, but a new addition to the store’s inventory is the Ashley furniture line and curved TVs.
As far as a future growth plan, Smith says he has acquired franchise rights for 10 more markets, including suburban Denver and Salt Lake City, as well as other markets in Wyoming, Idaho and Nebraska.