When regular Hobby Lobby customer Scott Ferguson pulled into the Cape Girardeau store's parking lot recently, he saw that the main entrance and the windows were all boarded up.
"I thought it was closed," Ferguson said. "I thought it was going out of business."
His reaction was a natural one and apparently one shared by several customers of the popular arts and crafts store on South Kingshighway.
But store manager David Vaughn wants his customers to know that nothing could be further from the truth: In fact, the windows are boarded up and people are being directed to a side entrance because the store is undergoing a 10,000-square-foot expansion, which will bring the total square footage to 51,000 in the spring.
"We're expanding the entire store front out 30 to 35 feet," Vaughn said last week.
Vaughn said that the work should be finished by the end of April or the first of May. A larger store sign will be added as well as sliding doors, something that Vaughn said customers have asked for.
"They'll be glad to see that," he said.
The extra 10,000 square feet will be devoted to making the seasonal section larger, Vaughn said, meaning more room for Christmas, fall and spring lines.
It will also add room to widen some of the aisles from 5 feet to 7 feet, especially the "race track" aisle that circles the store's outer walls. It also brings the store into line with its corporate inclination to build its new stores at about 50,000 square feet.
"We want to make it as convenient as we can on the customer," Vaughn said. "It will also allow us to diversify the space and be more creative. We feel we've been a bit crunched up."
But the expansion also is an indicator of the local store's success.
"The company is growing and the lines they are carrying are, too," he said. "This will allow us to accommodate those needs. This store was just too small for the number of lines we carry and the volume we've grown to."
Vaughn said he estimates the work will cost at least half a million. He said the company is far from closing, adding that profits have grown by 5 to 10 percent in each of its 11 years.
The Cape Girardeau store is among Hobby Lobby's 319 stores. The company saw sales in excess of $1 billion in 2001 and employs nearly 11,000 workers and operates in 27 states.
Hobby Lobby stores stock more than 60,000 items of arts and crafts supplies, fashion fabrics, baskets, silk flowers, needlework, wearable art, picture framing, cards, party supplies, furniture, and a large department devoted to seasonal merchandise.