Gordman’s store opens doors at Lafayette Square

Photo by Michael Kelly Renee Meiller, manager of the new Gordman’s store in Marietta, helps a customer shortly after the store opened for the first time Thursday morning. The off-price retailer has replaced Peebles department store as a major tenant in the Lafayette Square shopping center.

MARIETTA – After about a month of retooling, the largest tenancy in Marietta’s Lafayette Square shopping center re-opened Thursday morning, transformed from a department store into an off-price retail outlet.

The opening of Gordman’s in Marietta occurred in synchrony with 24 others in Ohio, all located in small cities such as Athens, Logan, Celina, Bucyrus and Van Wert. The chain, which specializes in off-price goods, is owned by Stage Stores, which sees cities under 50,000 people as an underserved niche market in a landscape dominated by TJ Maxx, Ross and Marshall’s, which locate almost exclusively in larger markets. Stage also owns Peebles, Goody’s, Bealls and Palais Royale retailers, and the Gordman’s in Marietta replaces a Peebles department store.

Store manager Renee Meiller said she came to Marietta from Madison, Wisc., to oversee the operation. She’s been with Stage for two years, she said.

“I’ve never been in Marietta before, but it seemed like a great opportunity, a chance to see some change, a new environment, and this is a great company,” she said.

Outside the store, about a dozen people were lined up at 9 a.m. Thursday to see a ribbon-cutting attended by representatives from the Marietta Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Joe Matthews, and Marietta High School Principal Chad Rinard.

Photo by Michael Kelly Gordman’s Marietta store manager Renee Meiller speaks to a crowd Thursday morning as the store opens for the first time. Staff members hold a giant check representing a donation of $1,000 to Marietta High School to mark the retailer’s entry into the local market.

The mayor read a proclamation and encouraged the public to support the new store.

“I want everybody to spend their money here,” he said.

“Welcome to the Marietta business community,” chamber president Carrie Ankrom said.

Rinard took possession of a $1,000 contribution from the store, saying he expects the school to use it for purchase of computer carts to move the devices from one classroom to another as the school expands its technology. The check for local schools was a gesture repeated at all 25 store openings across the state Thursday.

“I saw four of our students working here,” he said after the ribbon-cutting, which included the store staff.

As an indication of Stage’s commitment to the brand, Meiller said, it operates 105 stores across the country and expects that to expand to 150 by the end of the year.

Gordman’s was founded in 1915 in Omaha, Neb., and incorporated the off-price model in some of its locations, styled 1/2-Price Stores, in the 1970s. Off-pricing involves acquiring name brand goods at discounted prices on the wholesale side — mainly goods that are over-produced or for other reasons not selling at the expected rate while priced at full retail — and passing those discounts on to consumers. As a result, the stores don’t generally carry the same lines over long periods of time, frequently offering new products and making it appealing to bargain-hunting consumers.

Stage Stores acquired about 50 Gordman’s stores in 2017 when the parent company filed for bankruptcy, and after tests in several small city locations indicated a successful model, has undertaken an aggressive expansion program.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.