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See who's in the old Costco

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Brent Loogman scoured the Medford area for the right place to relocate and expand his furniture business.

The local Ashley HomeStore furniture dealer was ready to buy, build, remodel or whatever worked.

After a string of complex disappointments, Loogman found a solution that wasn’t all that complicated — moving to the former Costco location on Crater Lake Highway, where Ashley HomeStore is now under the same roof as Hobby Lobby.

Less than a year after Costco moved to Central Point, the location is thriving once more with customers on a different mission than buying a week or two worth of goods. Now, there’s a steady flow through Hobby Lobby’s art and crafts warehouse and Ashley’s cavernous home furniture, bedroom and decor store next door.

The Crater Lake Plaza regional retail power center sprang up in an erstwhile pear orchard in the 1980s. It stretches from the intersection of Crater Lake Highway and Delta Waters Road to Cardinal Avenue and has seen significant turnover and faced changes. The constant, however, is packed parking lots at restaurants, grocers and retailers.

“At Medford Center, we weren’t surrounded by neighboring businesses that would attract our consumer,” Loogman said. “We’ve gone from being the driver to bring in that customer to a shopping hub where people come with a different mindset.”

The old Costco, built in 1991 and later expanded to 136,000 square feet, was purchased by Corvallis investors for nearly $6.5 million last year. The new owners remodeled the building into a 62,000-square-foot space for Hobby Lobby and 47,000 square feet for the furniture store.

Ashley HomeStore has been at the Medford Center since 2004, and Loogman spent five years looking for a bigger and better location. Five times, Loogman thought he had the right place, and three of them went into contract, including the former Darigold Dairy site between Riverside Avenue and Court Street. For one reason or another, however, the deals fell through.

“In each of those cases, we were planning to buy, but now I’m happy to be a tenant,” Loogman said.

Rather than move inventory, Ashley furnished the entire Crater Lake Highway store with new merchandise.

“Anyone who has moved from one home to another knows how exhausting that can be,” he said. “So we sold off everything at our old location.”

In a world increasingly dominated by Amazon and other online retailers, Loogman is a firm believer that brick-and-mortar stores will hold their own in many fields.

“There are a lot of small items you can order and have it delivered in two days,” he said. “If you don’t like it, you can send it back. But there is much more involved in furniture. People want to feel and touch it.”

Arcadia, Wisconsin-based Ashley Furniture Industries is No. 85 on Forbes’ private company list with 2016 sales of $4.6 billion. It’s also the world’s largest furniture manufacturer. Loogman’s Southern Oregon territory stretches from the Oregon Coast to beyond Lakeview, with a payroll of 50 employees. He opened a second store in Roseburg last fall and has designs on a third location in Klamath Falls.

Hobby Lobby is No. 94 on Forbes’ private list with revenue of $4.3 billion.

The company-owned store, managed by Alexa Engle, is the sixth in Oregon. It’s also placed strategically just down the row from Michael’s — the nation’s largest arts and crafts supplier that operates more than 1,200 stores and reported sales of nearly $5.4 billion in 2017.

Telephone calls and emails to Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City headquarters requesting a local interview were not returned.

Hobby Lobby has more than 800 stores and boasts 70,000 floral, fabric, needle art, custom framing, baskets, jewelry making and scrapbooking items.

There may be additional retailers who appear in the newly occupied center.

Loogman indicated that an unpaved area where the former Costco fueling station stood on the northeast corner of the property may see redevelopment.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or gstiles@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Hobby Lobby and Ashley Homestore located in old Costco building in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Local customers shop for furniture at Ashley Homestore in Medford.