CARLISLE TWP. - It was something of a homecoming for Marilyn Felix as she came through the doors of the new Rural King store on Friday morning.
"I worked here for 33 years in the furniture department when it was Value City," Felix said as she sat on bags of topsoil, taking a break from checking out the 77,000-square-foot store having its grand opening this weekend.
An Elyria resident, Felix and her daughter, Laura Wickes, of Oberlin, were clearly enjoying themselves.
"I'm really excited about having this here," Wickes said. "We haven't had much of anything in this end of town for some time. I'm so glad to have something back in this space, to have a viable company back on the south side of Elyria."
Wickes and her family had to drive to the Amherst area's Tractor Supply store for farm items they needed before the Rural King store opened.
"This is so much closer for us," she said.
The Carlisle Township store is the 51st in the Rural King chain and the fourth in Ohio, according to manager Tom White.
"You could say we are like what Sears stores used to be in the late '60s and early '70s," White said. "Even Penney's used to have work clothes and footwear like what we carry, but they went away from that, as Sears did. They're more into fashion now. That's not what we're about here."
Billed as "America's Farm & Home Store," Rural King sells items as varied as feed grain, hand and power tools, work clothes and coats, birdseed, pet food, lawn mowers, gas and electric heaters, sporting goods and limited groceries.
"We offer lots of things for farmers, as well as folks who enjoy country living and do-it-yourselfers," White said.
Rural King opened its first stores in Illinois in 1960, according to White. It now operates in six states - Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri.
The store underwent some renovation after being leased by Rural King from Ron Matcham, owner of the nearby Quality Blow Molding. Matcham purchased the 120,000-square-foot space in 2010, two years after Value City closed due to financial problems.
At the time of the purchase, Matcham talked of expanding his U.S. Route 20 business - which makes plastic parts for the automotive industry among others - into the Value City site. But those plans didn't work out.
"The manufacturing thing just wasn't going to pan out, so I'm glad we could bring a good, family-oriented store to the community," he said. "I decided to take a shot."
Matcham declined to discuss in detail the lease with Rural King, saying only, "It's open-ended, but could be for 20 years. We'll see what happens."
Matcham said he believes in the location and the neighborhood.
"I don't believe, as some do, that this is a bad end of town. Now people won't have to go to the other side of town to shop," he said.
The store employs approximately 40 people but is looking to hire more, especially for the holidays, White said, gesturing to pads of job applications on a checkout counter.
"It will definitely go up for Christmas," White said.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.