When HCN first visited Millington, Tenn.-based Cole’s Home Solutions with a cover story in our August 2009 issue, we cautioned: “Now for something completely different.”
When we first talked to co-owner Charles Cole, he expressed admirable ambition: “We knew we had to remodel the store, because Lowe’s was kicking our butts,” Cole said. “And we don’t want to be just another big box.”
The 70,000-sq.-ft. Millington store had running water in the sink and faucet displays. It had a hands-on in-store garage for tool demos. It had a Ron Johnson-designed drive-through lumberyard. When HCN toured the store in 2010, a publisher said to an editor: “This is the best hardware store I’ve ever seen.”
The only thing missing were customers.
Earlier this year, Cole’s Home Solutions entered liquidation. According to Boyden Moore, whose Central Network Retail Group purchased the Cole family’s smaller Ripley, Tenn., store in 2011, the Millington store suffered partly from a mismatched product mix and market demographics.
Cole’s deserves credit for swinging for the fences. But the store’s downfall is based on the classic location-location-and-location rule of retailing.
“There just wasn’t enough business out there [in Millington],” Moore said. “And they had a Lowe’s open on them, too, about a block away.”
Some of the store’s features continue on in the CNRG-owned store in Ripley.
“I loved it; I just didn’t see how to make it work,” Moore added.