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Kimbrells makes $350,000 investment to upgrade store
Old Kimbrells Photo
A scan of an early 20th century photograph of downtown Camden shows the separate buildings that would eventually become a single store -- Kimbrells. - photo by Photo provided by Kimbrell's

It’s not every day that a furniture store manager can say their company spent $350,000 -- a little more, actually -- to give their retail space a facelift both inside and out. That’s the estimate Kimbrell’s Furniture Manager Ann Bass gave earlier this week of how much the company invested in exterior façade and extensive interior upgrades.

For most of the last seven months, people passing by the store’s downtown Camden location at Broad and Rutledge streets saw the outside of the store undergo a major transformation. Bass said the outside work included stucco and new paint on the exterior walls, installing a new door on the Rutledge Street side of the store and installing actual windows on the top floor.

“People thought there were windows up there, but it was actually just boards made to look like windows,” Bass said.

Most recently, Kimbrell’s installed new awnings at the front and side entrances.

Camden City Council voted unanimously in May to provide Kimbrell’s with a $15,000 façade grant to assist with the exterior work -- the maximum amount allowed under the city’s façade grant program. In its application at the time, Kimbrell’s estimated the façade improvements to cost $64,000.

That means the bulk of the upgrades -- another approximately $286,000 -- were conducted inside the store.

The new interior color scheme utilizes colors called Hopsack and Dapper Tan along with a rust colored accent; the exterior paint and awnings are a close match, Bass said.

“We put in a new ceiling, painted, boxed in the poles and added columns, sheet-rocked the entire place … we even poured concrete,” Bass said.

She explained that the space Kimbrell’s occupies originally comprised three buildings, all at slightly different elevations from the street. That created a “boat” effect if water got inside, she said. The concrete leveled out the floor allowing new carpeting to put in -- by hand by one man working alone, she said.

“The building was just old, old, old,” Bass said. “Everything you see is new.”

Up until now, she said, the store had stayed pretty much the same since she came 25 years ago.

“I had a 4-year-old when I came to work here and I brought my 4-year-old granddaughter here today,” Bass said. “I think the only thing they’d done was paint due to leaks.”

This time around, she said, the entire store was gutted, and a new HVAC system installed.

“They took out the old boiler piece by piece. That was amazing,” she said, adding that another major expense was for asbestos removal. A few steps up from the store’s children’s furniture section, an old ad room -- where, years ago, Kimbrell’s employees created print advertisements in-house before bringing them to the Chronicle-Independent -- has been converted into a new employee break room.

Bass credits Kimbrell’s Chairman of the Board Rigdon Boykin, who lives in Kershaw County’s Boykin community, with making the decision to give the store a facelift. She said Boykin and the company’s other officers are having all of Kimbrell’s 51 stores upgraded, with two new stores on the way. She said the renovations are based on those performed at its main Sumter location.

“And in Goose Creek, which is in a shopping center, they’ve used the same interior scheme,” she said. “Every store is doing it, but not to this extent.”

The Goose Creek store opened on Black Friday.

In some cases, Bass said, the company is moving some stores to take better advantage of different locations. That wasn’t possible for Camden. Bass said Kimbrell’s looked at other existing buildings and undeveloped land, but that nothing quite matched the store’s needs. So, Boykin decided to upgrade the store instead.

That investment has caught the eye of Camden City Hall.

“I hope the economics of this work in his favor,” Camden City Manager Mel Pearson said. “It’s an excellent example of the private sector stepping up to make improvements in downtown Camden.”

Pearson said while the $15,000 the city chipped in wasn’t a lot compared to Kimbrell’s overall investment, it was a large sum in terms of the façade grant program.

“That’s a lot of money and it looks very good,” Pearson said of all the work.

Camden Mayor Tony Scully praised the effort as well.

“Kimbrell’s has given all of us a transformational vision, showing us what's possible by way of improving what we have,” Scully said. “Rigdon Boykin has greatly contributed to our city and we all need to thank him.”

Bass said that while some other neighboring merchants are upgrading their façades and installing new awnings as Kimbrell’s did, she hopes the work will draw even more good news to downtown Camden.

“We still need something to bring people downtown,” she said. “We need something to make them stay and shop local.”

In the meantime, Bass said the $350,000-plus investment is already beginning to pay off.

“Over the weekend, we had eight new customers come in. That says to me that what we’ve done is working,” she said.

On top of all the physical work to upgrade the store, Kimbrell’s recently installed a new computerized inventory and sales system. Bass said it went live August 30, right in the middle of the renovations. She said the store used to do everything on paper, and will do so for a little while longer as employees -- and customers -- get used to the new software.

Bass said a grand reopening might be held in January.