MERIDEN — The long vacant Lowe’s Home Improvement Center on the city’s east side finally saw some shoppers this past week when its appliance outlet center opened to the public.
The home improvement chain opened its second appliance outlet discount center in the U.S. and the first in the Northeast.
“We still have the building and we felt this will be a good place to have this,” said store manager Ramon Oyarzun. “We have a whole line of refrigerators and freezers, gas and electric stoves, washers and dryers. There are a little blemishes here and there, or models we carried last year. Nothing is used.”
The appliance outlet center is Lowe’s second after another store opened in Monrovia, California. New stoves, freezers, washers and dryers and refrigerators, microwave ovens and parts fill 33,000 square feet of the 120,000-square-foot big box store. Space in the rear is used for storage or minor repairs.
Prices range from $300 to $3,000 in a variety of models with customers expecting to see discounts of 25 percent to 50 percent off the retail price, Oyarzun said. The appliances come with warranty offers and delivery is extra. A grand opening is Friday at 10 a.m.
Several shoppers were in the store Thursday afternoon scanning the merchandise.
“I’m browsing,” said Ana Tosado, of Meriden. “Later I want to buy a new stove and dishwasher. That’s good it’s so close to me. It lets me check the prices.”
Scott Griffin, who helps run Grace Place food pantry, was at the outlet center by mid-morning. He was searching for a freezer chest for the pantry and found what he wanted at a good price.
“I’m so very happy this is in Meriden,” said Griffin, who is also a member of the Meriden Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. “Word is going to get out. This is going to bring a shot in the arm to the east side.”
Renters and homeowners can now shop for bargains, he said. The selections aren’t just dent and scratches, but special orders that were returned and last year’s models.
“Now is the time to come here because you get to cherry pick before the grand opening,” Griffin said.
Lowe’s closed its Meriden Parkade store in 2011 after three years of sluggish sales indicated home improvement centers had saturated the local market. There is also a Lowe’s and Home Depot on Route 5 in Wallingford, less than a mile from the Meriden town line. Lowe’s has continued to pay taxes on the property since the closure.
Lowe’s and Home Depot both reported improved sales since the start of the pandemic as homeowners used quarantine time to make improvements to their living quarters, according to analysts.
The outlet center offers a dramatic shift for Lowe’s and the Parkade plaza because an appliance outlet won’t be as dependent on the local market, and will instead draw traffic from the region and the state, city officials said.
In addition to Valencia Wine and Spirit Shop, Ocean State Job Lot and a Chinese restaurant are among the only thriving tenants. Lowe’s recently repaved the overgrown parking lot and made sign and facade improvements.
The outlet center currently has 12 employees but is looking to hire a few more, Oyarzun said. He also thanked city officials for their support.
“The town has been extremely welcoming,” Oyarzun said. “The mayor has been by to say ‘Hello.’ We’re trying to bring some life back to shopping center.”
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said last month the new store will help breathe life back into the plaza.
“Residents have been wanting to see something happen with that building since Lowe’s vacated the space,” Scarpati said, “and I think anything that’s going to attract customers and re-engage with the community is a good thing for that plaza and a good thing for that area of our city and is needed.”
“We are very excited to have Lowes back in town and doing something totally different from their standard store,” said city Economic Development Director Joseph Feest. “People will come in from surrounding towns to shop and then hopefully dine in one of the restaurants along East Main. This should also breathe some new life into the plaza and the surrounding stores.”