(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
Eddie Ross, owner of Ross Furniture, said the decision was difficult, but as the business grew, it became more and more difficult to safely function at 116 S. High St. Ross said that customers struggled to climb the stairs to see merchandise on the store's three levels and that delivery and warehouse workers were challenged by moving products in the space without damage or injury.
"Uptown's a great place to be. I wish I could stay," Ross said. "We felt bad leaving ... but we needed to do it."
The new location at 2310 E. Jackson Blvd. is on one level with 5,000 more square feet of showroom space. Ross said that being on one floor allows better product display, ease of browsing for customers and improved conditions for delivery and warehouse workers. He said the move has also allowed them to add enough new inventory to add a warehouse position to the staff.
The business has been moving inventory and operations to the new location over several weeks.
Amid preparations to move, store manager Adam Ross stepped down in February as president of the Jackson Uptown Redevelopment Organization, a volunteer board created in an effort to involve business owners in implementing plans stemming from a Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri, or DREAM, Initiative grant awarded to the city in 2010.
"They needed somebody that's up there more," Adam Ross said.
However, uptown is not completely losing the longtime tenants. Eddie Ross said he plans to continue to use the old location as a warehouse and will possibly open it weekends as an inventory clearance center. After spending so many years in the area, Eddie and Adam Ross said, they would like to continue to contribute to strengthening Jackson's traditional center.
New Jackson Uptown Redevelopment Organization president Kevin Schaper, an account executive for Withers Broadcasting, chairman of Jackson's zoning board of adjustment and appeals and a member of the Jackson Optimist Club, said that he's had a number of conversations with retail businesses interested in joining the uptown community.
Schaper said the main focuses of the organization are to attract vendors to the area and to promote existing businesses. He said the organization also supports businesses all over Jackson and works with other committees, such as historic groups, art guilds and gardening clubs, to help highlight the city's appeal.
"You can get large city goods with small-town service," Schaper said.
Recently, Schaper said, the DREAM Initiative consulting group, PGAV Planners of St. Louis, provided information about parking uptown, which has long been identified as a challenge. The company's study found that, even when storefront spaces are full and they must use nearby public lots, shoppers are generally required to walk a shorter distance when visiting stores uptown compared to how far they have to walk at the mall or other major retail outlets.
Still pending are results of a survey taken in April about community preferences for uptown and a concept study for existing buildings that will give owners ideas about how to remodel their facades.
Meanwhile, remaining uptown vendors have a positive attitude about the change.
"We've not had any negative feedback," Adam Ross said.
Tractor Classic American Grill was Ross's next-door neighbor and assistant manager Michelle Bryan said she doesn't feel that the furniture store closing will have "much of an impact" on them. She said that it seems the economy is improving and business has increased.
Bryan also said she thinks that the beautification and promotions efforts by the Jackson Uptown Redevelopment Organization have helped drive people uptown.
High Street Station sits just two doors down from Ross's old site and has been co-owned by sisters Lisa Walker and Lynette Strange since 2004.
Walker, who is also vice president of the Jackson Uptown Redevelopment Organization, said running a small business is a challenge and that she and her sister have had to keep a keen eye on what customers would like to see in their store, which sells vintage-inspired, "country casual" home decor and gifts as well as personal accessories, handbags, jewelry and seasonal items.
"You can't afford to sit back and be the same-old, same-old," Walker said.
At the same time, she said that she's found Jackson residents to be very loyal and supportive of local businesses. She strives to keep those customers interested and attract new ones through frequent promotions and newsletters. She also heads up promotions for the Jackson Uptown Redevelopment Organization and is planning a "wine and stein" event for September to attract people to the area.
Walker said that she was sorry to see Ross Furniture, "one of the anchor stores for uptown Jackson," leave but would never question the decision to do what was best for the Ross family and business.
"I think the fact that they are staying in Jackson is good," Walker said.
As for her, she plans to stay right where she is.
"We thoroughly enjoy being in business in uptown Jackson," Walker said.
116 S. High St., Jackson, MO
2310 E. Jackson Blvd., Jackson, MO