Sears Home Appliance made its Mendenhall Mall debut Tuesday.
Though the official grand opening is slated for early September, the authorized Sears dealer has opened for business.
The Juneau Sears store is not directly owned by Sears, Roebuck & Co., said Bill Kent, western marketing manager for Sears, Roebuck & Co. It is owned and operated locally by Bill Gissel.
Currently the store carries large appliances and electronics. Store General Manager Andrew Hohenthaner said it plans to add lawn and garden equipment as well as Craftsman tools.
Even with little fanfare in advance of the store's opening, in the first five hours it had sold 18 appliances, including one to a woman who came from Point Baker, on Prince of Wales Island, just to buy an oven hood, Hohenthaner said.
"We have been very impressed with sales," he said. "Juneau has already responded well to us without any advertising. Word of mouth around here is what's helping us, I think."
Shoppers could see the five Sears employees preparing the store over 12-hour days for three weeks prior to opening, he said.
"People could see what we were doing and that we were getting ready to open. It really created interest," he said. "Man, we worked hard to get here. We put the tile in, carpet, put paint and stickers on the walls. We really brought it from the ground up."
Hohenthaner said managers are looking to create an accessible shopping atmosphere with fair prices. Although the store still is receiving much of its merchandise, Hohenthaner said, it will carry the top six names in large appliances such as ovens, washers, dryers and refrigerators. Further, the store carries TVs, VCRs and stereo systems.
"I've lived here all my life and remember the old Sears store downtown," said mall customer Richard Carle. "Hopefully this will add more variety and competition around here to get some of the prices down."
Lisa Peterson, the Mendenhall Center marketing and promotional director, said though some people are disappointed that the store will not carry clothing, housewares and some of the goods found in a Sears department store, the appliance store will have things people need at good prices. Further, she said the store will be good for merchants near the mall's eastern entrance.
"Most people hit the mall through Bullwinkle's so the stores around there get a lot of the action," she said. "This way the merchants at the other end of the mall will get more business."
Bill Shew, owner of Electronic Adventures, an Internet access venue next to Sears, said he doesn't expect the new store will impact his business directly but any new business in the mall can't hurt.
"I'm really more entertainment," he said. "But you know mom and dad go into Sears to check out stuff and the kids come over here to use the Internet. Either way it means more people in the mall."
Mendenhall Center owner Rein Fluk said he anticipates a 15 percent increase in customers for the mall with Sears opening. Additionally, he said he is looking at bringing in three smaller stores as well as an anchor store.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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