Monday morning the "Opening Soon" banner draped on a constrution trailer out side a former Miller & Rhodes store here came down and a "Now Open" sign was hung in front of the bright blue building.
With no other announcement, no advertising, the barely completed store was jammed by noon, and by nightfall to cash registers had rung up "the best opening day we've ever had," said Richard England, chairman of Hechinger.
The Newport News store is Hechinger's first outside the Washington market. The grand opening tomorrow marks the transformation of Hechinger from a local firm into a regional chain.
Another dozen new stores are planned now, said England. "If sales are as good as the first day, we may accelerate our expansion.
"In Washington, we're used to just opening the doors and having the customers clock in. We didn't know what would happen when we went out of town."
Hechinger officials won't reveal their sales targets for the new stores. Thirteen new stores matching Hechinger's $4.5-million-perstore average sales would boost the company's sales from last year's $30 million to the $150 million range.
To handle the growth, the company late next month will begin moving merchandise into a new warehouse at Ardwick, in Prince Georges County. Around the first of the year. Hechinger offices will more there, too, from the firm's original headquarters at Maryland Avenue and 17th St., NE.
Company president John Hechinger this week offered to give the old site to the city and build with private funds the convention center he city has been unable to get with public financing.
The Newport News unit is opposite the New Market Mall, the largest shopping center in the area. Vacant since Miller and Rhodes moved in across the street three years ago, it was remodeled completely for Hechinger.