A new store in Steele Creek is looking to return to its roots providing customers with a variety of products at discount prices.
Bargain Max owners Doug Hipps and Tom Bjork opened a second location in July at 14082 S. Tryon St., most recently a real estate office.
“We think this is the next growth area of Charlotte,” said Bjork, naming new businesses like Gander Mountain and HomeGoods in RiverGate shopping center.
The 6,000-square-foot building was once the only store serving the area along South Tryon west of Interstate 485. Property owner Carl Vaughan of Sharon built Old Timey General Store in 1974. He said there weren’t many stores between Charlotte and Clover back then, and there were not a lot of shopping centers.
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“It was quite a store,” he said, adding he sold everything from fishing tackle to clothing and had a meat department.
The store closed in 1984 and became Charlotte Memorial Hospital Medical Center and then real estate offices. The property, with 1.3 acres, is for sale.
“The discount operation is good for the area,” Vaughan said.
Now, with outdoor sheds once again surrounding the parking lot, it holds a little bit of everything.
“We’re like a box of chocolates,” said Hipps, quoting the famous “Forest Gump” movie phrase.
Hipps founded Bargain Max in 1985 and says his business thrives because “everyone is looking for savings.” His first store just up the road off North Tryon at East Sugar Creek Road, is a 40,000-square-foot warehouse. Between both stores there are about eight employees, Hipps said.
“Retail is a small portion of what we do,” he said, explaining wholesale makes up the majority of business.
Hipps says it’s the general store mentality of being personable and selling “restaurant quality products for cheap prices” that sets his store apart from other discount stores.
“Customer service is different here,” Bjork agreed. “We get to know customers by face and name.”
Alisa Frye of Lake Wylie said it was curiosity that drew her in when it opened with only about seven shelves of products.
“They’ve been adding more,” she said, adding she also joined the email alert list. “I’ve got some pretty good deals.”
Frye said she’s found groceries, hair products and lawn care and even an outdoor bench.
“You never know what you’ll find,” she said.
Bjork, a former Wall Street bond trader, joined Bargain Max business after meeting Hipps through a business transaction purchasing 250 cases of energy drinks.
“I was amazed at the great prices and service,” he said. “This is a blast.”
He calls the store a “soup to nuts discount store” and says other discount stores can’t compete.
“There are not many selling 20-pound boxes of Snickers to furniture,” Bjork said.
Bjork said shipments come in every three to four days, and the store should be fully stocked in 30 to 40 days.
“I really believe discount general stores are the future,” he said. “Right now we’re two guys and a truck, but who knows in the future.”