polo teddy bear s Only Game In Town Of Boaz
Shoppings Only Game In Town Of Boaz, Ala.
April 29, 1990By JAYNE CLARK, Los Angeles Daily News
BOAZ, Ala. This tiny north central Alabama town has one high school, one hospital, one public swimming pool and 130 factory direct outlets, give or take a few.
You cannot go to the movies, take in an art exhibit or engage in what you would call fine dining. But, boy, can you shop.
And shop they do. On a typical day, about 15,000 out of towners thats more than twice the number of Boaz residents converge on the five outlet centers crammed into the compact streets that constitute Boaz.
On a busy weekend, as many as 75,000 shoppers come to the town that has become Alabamas No. 1 tourist attraction.
They come from all over. From California, Oregon, Washington state. Weve had people from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland. In fact, someone just wrote from Nigeria and wants some coupons, said Suzzi Rogers, manager of the Boaz Outlet Center. Most people are traveling to somewhere else, but they go out of their way to go to Boaz.
On a Saturday, shoppers jammed the Boaz Outlet Center, enthusiastically moving from the Jaymar store to the Corning store to the Fuller Brush store. Like addicts suffering the after effects of a holiday shopping binge, they are back already for the hair of the dog, so to speak. The parking lot sported license plates from throughout the South Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee.
But the crowds were a pittance compared to the 137 buses that jammed the lot on Thanksgiving weekend 1988, a day that will live in infamy in the history of this tiny Southern town.
All these shoppers only go to show that Chalmus Weathers was right.
Ya got time? he replied when asked the genesis of how an off the beaten track, one horse town like Boaz came to have one of the greatest concentrations of manufacturers outlets anywhere.
The short version of the story is that when the Vanity Fair owned factory decided to move into larger quarters about 1980,
Weathers and then Mayor Billy B. Dyar persuaded the company to open an outlet store in the old factory building. The outlet center opened in the fall of 1982.
Weathers and friends saw the success of the outlet and set about persuading other developers to come in. Many laughed at the notion. Now, Weathers and his friends are laughing all the way to the bank.
Between 4.5 million and 5 million people come to shop each year. Revenues from the local 2 percent sales tax increased from $665,000 in 1981 in the pre outlet days to $3.5 million in 1988. Today, the outlets employ about 8,000 people in this town of 7,500.
Several new motels have been built to accommodate the marathon shoppers. The spanking new and reasonably priced Key West Inn is within walking distance of all the outlet malls. Also, there is a Days Inn and a Best Western.
This is a fast food town with the standard fried offerings. An exception: At the Boaz Outlet Center is Mrs. Tuppers Buffet, where $5.59 buys you all the fried chicken, black eyed peas, pepper steak, chicken livers and rice that you could possibly eat.
Five separate outlet centers occupy 700,000 square feet of retail space. It is nothing fancy strip mall architecture, but, again, shoppers are here for bargains, not scenery.
Here is a sampling of what the five centers have to offer.
The Boaz Outlet Center has 60 stores now and will have 20 more by summer. They include Jockey, Oneida, Gitano Kids and dozens more.
Fashion Outlets has 27 stores, among them Polo/Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein and Fenn Wright Manson outlets plus what has to be the most unusual bargain shop anywhere, the Bible Outlet.
It was ho ho for some people when we opened this place, said owner Billie Archer. But we get people from California and Canada. And we have the nicest customers in the world.
VF Factory Outlet has about 11 stores, including Jonathan Logan, Lee and Vanity Fair.
Red Roof Factory Stores contains 15 stores, among them, Calvin Klein, Mikasa and OshKosh BGosh.
Factory Direct Center harbors six stores that sell shoes, sporting goods and lingerie.
Boaz is 70 miles north of Birmingham and 90 miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn. For information on the outlet centers, call the Boaz Chamber of Commerce at 1 205 593 8154.