Booming Bypass

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, February 11, 2009

After several years of sitting mostly dormant, the “west bypass” area of Andalusia has again begun to thrive.

The region, located west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 29 and State Highway 55, saw its major retail draw disappear in 2006, when Wal-Mart moved to the east side of town.

“Obviously for many years that was a real high-traffic area there, with Wal-Mart being that main draw,” Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson said. “When the Wal-Mart moved, that left sort of a vacuum in the area. It was very important for the merchants on that side of town to get some traffic re-generated in that area.”

Over the span of the last six months, two major national retailers have stepped up to fill that vacuum. Tractor Supply Co., a national farm and ranch store chain, will open its doors this March, operating out of the old Wal-Mart building. On Wed., Feb. 4, Johnson announced at a press conference that Andalusia would also soon be home to Marvin’s Building Materials and Home Center, which would occupy another section of the building.

“I think that the Tractor Supply and the Marvin’s will be a great fit for other merchants in the area, and the commercial establishments on that side of down,” Johnson said. “It will drive back a lot of those customers who work in their farms and in their gardens; it will bring a lot of those folks back out to the west side of town.”

Gary Arsenault, store manager for the new Tractor Supply Co. in Andalusia, said he believes that Marvin’s locating next to his store will be beneficial for both businesses.

“I think we’ll both work very well together,” he said. “It’s going to help business by bringing people out and giving them more variety of choices.”

Arsenault said that workers will be working throughout February to get the store ready for its “soft opening” on Sat., Feb. 28. Only special guests and dignitaries will be invited to the soft opening. The official grand opening is scheduled for Sat., March 7, at 10 a.m.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to serve our customers in this area,” he said. “There are obviously a lot of farmers in this area, but there are also a lot of people who might own a few horses or have a small garden. We like to cater to both groups of those people.”

Tractor Supply Co. and Marvin’s are only a few of the businesses that have recently located to the west bypass area. Last year, Beef O’Brady’s opened a restaurant in the Westgate Plaza. Two health care providers — Covington Pediatrics and Andalusia Dental Group — also recently re-located to the area. Covington Pediatrics moved from its previous location on South Three Notch Street, while Andalusia Dental Group (Drs. Bill King, Parrish King and Robert Burkhardt) moved from its previous location on Crescent Street.

“The biggest thing for us was that we ran out of room and just didn’t have parking,” Dr. Bill King said. “Having the four-lane highway over here is tremendous because it gives our practice some tremendous visibility. This turned out to be a perfect location because we’re right next to a pediatric practice. There’s a lot of moms in and out over there who might also decide to come in and schedule a dentist’s appointment while they’re over on this part of town.”

Existing merchants on the west side of the bypass appreciate the growth as well. Joey Langley of Massey Automotive said he believes his dealership lost some customers when Wal-Mart moved to the other side of town.

“What I lost were those spur of the moment shoppers,” he said. “The ones who would pull through Wal-Mart and say to their wives, ‘Honey, you go over and do your shopping and I’m going to go look at some trucks.’ Now, I don’t really have that kind of shopper anymore — people who come out to this side of town are already thinking about buying a vehicle.

“I lost that big impulse buyer and hopefully Tractor Supply and Marvin’s can help bring a certain amount of those customers back. I don’t see them having the same volume of impact as Wal-Mart did, but it’s still better than nothing.”