Moving with the times

Cal Williams never imagined that moving his business would yield positive results.


After only a week and a half at his new location at 2825 Washington Road in Fairway Square, the owner of Mooney's Shoes said the move has "far exceeded his expectations."

For the last 31 years, the shoe store was at 545 15th St.; and it was at Eighth and Greene streets for 25 years before that.

"I had no idea it was going to be this good. I thought it was going to be a little struggle getting the customers to find it. We moved about 30 years ago, and it was really tough on business for a year," Williams said. "But with the age of technology and cell phones, they can Google me on a map, where 30 years ago, they didn't know where to go. They didn't know what happened."

Williams said that he moved the store to improve its accessibility and visibility. At his 15th Street location, people often told him they had been driving by for years and never saw the store.

Patty Stewart, of Augusta, has been shopping at Mooney's since 1998, upon her podiatrist's recommendation. Stewart said that she loves shopping at Mooney's because the staff "knows feet," and she's glad the retailer has moved to a new location.

"Washington Road is a hub. Getting in and out of the old place, just finding it, was a chore. It took me three weeks before I actually found them," Stewart said.

OTHER LOCAL BUSINESSES are reaping the benefits of a new address. Mish Mash Interiors & Gifts' move to 4090 Washington Road in Evans last month has been deemed a success, said co-owner Charlene Stahl.

"If you treat (customers) well, they will follow. It has gone beyond our wildest expectations. We cannot believe how much busier we are. We are so blessed. What's so wonderful is we have the most loyal customers," Stahl said.

Mish Mash, which specializes in interiors and gifts, was located on Evans to Locks Road for 21/2 years. The owners moved because they had outgrown the space.

The new building also gives them "better visibility" and allowed them to own their storefront. Stahl attributes the extra foot traffic to that visibility.

"I guess when they say 'location, location, location,' they don't just mean where you buy a house," Stahl said.

THERE ARE ADVANTAGES and disadvantages associated with relocating a small or midsize business, said Dr. Anthony Robinson, a marketing and entrepreneurship professor at Augusta State University.

"Depending on how far the business is moving, they can gain access to a new market. If you're moving to a more growth-oriented market, clearly there are advantages by increasing your revenues," Robinson said. "Moving from downtown to somewhere on Washington Road may make the store more accessible to a larger market."

Also, moving to a new location could help to "drive down some of the operating costs." If a particular area of town wanted to attract new businesses, it might lower the cost of rent or leases, he explained.

"In Harrisburg and other parts of downtown, they're engaged in a lot of development trying to promote the area, so there might be some cost-savings benefits associated with moving," Robinson said.

However, there are some disadvantages to relocating a business, such as the moving costs.

"Another disadvantage can be that you now have to learn this new market. This is particularly true when you're moving from one region to another region," Robinson said.

LAST MAY, BRAD USRY moved his restaurant, Fat Man's Cafe, from Fort Discovery on Seventh Street to Enterprise Mill at 1450 Greene St. When Fort Discovery announced that it was closing, he decided to renovate a space that he had been using for storage next to his events center at Enterprise Mill.

Now, the restaurant is closer to its steady clientele in the medical community.

"The move was real nice for us. It put us very close to our customer base that we've established over the last 50 years," Usry said. "We've picked up some of our old customers. We kind of lost some with that move (to Fort Discovery) because we weren't as close to the medical college. We have some new faces, too. At the mill, we've got a captive audience. They're very loyal to us."

In 2003, Brent Smith purchased a competing business, Southern Lighting Co. on Bobby Jones Expressway. Before that, he operated a lighting business at 3206 Washington Road. The Bobby Jones location has better visibility, he said.

"It was a great business opportunity to acquire an existing business in a larger building and better location as far as traffic count, ease of getting in and out and more warehouse space," Smith said.

THE MOVE TO A NEW PART of town has other advantages for Mooney's Shoes.

The new showroom area is bigger and has large windows, Williams said.

"People can walk by and look in, as opposed to the store downtown. They'd have to get out of their car and walk up to the door," he said.

Several months ago, Williams handed out fliers to let customers know the store was moving. A sign remains at the old location with the store's new address. He was able to keep the same telephone number.

"That made a huge difference for us because they've got our cards at home, and it's still in the phone book as the old number. If we had switched, they would have rolled it over, but it still would have made it a little more difficult," Williams said.

His son also changed the business' information on Google and Yahoo!, which had never occurred to Williams.

"A lot of people use Google. I'm learning that, so it shows the new location. We're picking up quite a bit of new business, and thank God the old customers are finding us," Williams said.