PRINCETON — Monday's opening of Walker's Hometown Store at 1607 West Broadway in Princeton is a new venture — yet not — for Debra Walker.
The 11-year owner/operator of Princeton's former Sears Hometown Store begins the new year with her own business model and her own name on the line.
Which should be a good move, considering it's really always been her name on the line, and her store has ranked 21st in the nation among approximately 1,300 privately-owned Sears Hometown Stores.
Now totally independent of Sears Hometown, Walker's bringing in familiar and new merchandise, working on getting new Walker's Hometown Store signage up within a couple of weeks, and other details. She said Friday she's more than ready to see customer traffic again.
For Walker, the store has always been a family business. Her son and daughter-in-law Derrick and Tara have worked with her since she began her retail venture more than a decade ago, and are with her in the new store.
Granddaughter Isabella Walker is also a big help. She's grown up in the store. She was about 2 when Walker bought the store, doing her part by tapping store visitors on the knee, offering business cards to shoppers. Walker chuckles, remembering her granddaughter's nap-time even came on a princess bed near the back of the show-room in the early days.
The conversion to Walker's Hometown Store came after Walker ended her contract with Sears Hometown during uncertain times for that business model. "I worked hard to be that 21st in the nation," she said, looking back on the experience. "A lot of Sears Hometown Stores didn't survive...I fulfilled my contract, I did what I was supposed to do and I learned from it.
"I'm excited to get going with this and I really hope the community supports us the way they have always done," Walker said.
Walker said her store will provide moderate, affordable yet good quality products for customers. She offers name brand large home appliances, furniture, bedding, lawn and garden equipment, small appliances, tools, televisions and other electronics — she's even planning to offer a high-quality paint selection. "Every single brand we had and more," she said, is possible.
"I have control of my own inventory now...I can get anything the customers want. If they want high-end, I can get it," explained Walker.
"I'm going to price match anybody, and hopefully beat them," she said. A lease-to-own program or 100-days same as cash financing is offered to qualified buyers.
She will also offer a store credit card within about two weeks of opening.
Closed for several weeks during the conversion, Walker said she's hustling and more than ready to re-open. "Wake, pray, slay" is my motto, she grinned.
The store's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and likely 1-5 p.m. Sundays on a trial basis. A Facebook page and website will be available to the public soon.
"We're at the same place, same phone number (812-385-5757), same products plus more, and we're the same Walkers," she said.