Freedom Furniture and Electronics to replace Books-A-Million at plaza site

Freedom Furniture and Electronics will replace Books-A-Million, an executive with the company that owns Cross Country Plaza said Friday.

The bookstore chain is scheduled to close the local store April 15, and the new store plans to open in late summer or early fall, according to Leo Wiener of Glenwood Development Company.

The national chain has 11 stores, which locates “in vibrant markets which have a strong military presence,” according to Wiener. This will be its first store in Columbus. The only other Georgia store is in Hinesville near Fort Stewart. The company gravitates toward military towns.

“We’re thrilled they not only picked Columbus but our center as part of their growth plans,” Wiener said. “The continuing addition of new tenants to the center further reinforces the growing sense of vibrancy and vitality of the center and the area.”

Freedom Furniture and Electronics was founded in 1983. It’s based in Norfolk, Va., a Navy town. Other locations include San Diego, Colorado Springs and Killeen, Texas.

The store sells furniture, computers, HDTVs, jewelry and car audio equipment. Military and government personnel are guaranteed credit, according to the company Web site.

Leonard Melley, president of the company, said Freedom had considered the Columbus market for 10 years.

“We’re excited to finally find the perfect match of location and shopping center,” he said. “The location is ideal and convenient for our customers.”

The new store will measure about 20,000 square feet, the approximate size of Books-A-Million.

“We’re continuing to redevelop (Cross Country) and turn the center around,” Wiener said.

The current Publix will be moving to the space formerly occupied by Steve & Barrys clothing store. It will be larger than the current store and have a drive-in pharmacy.

Wiener said Friday he’s talking to several tenants interested in the upcoming Publix vacancy, and that it will likely be divided into two stores. The new Publix is projected for completion by the end of this year, he said.

The closing of Books-A-Million mirrors national trends: People are reading less, and more online. Wiener blames the local closing on that, as well as the addition of Barnes & Noble in 2002. The Books-A-Million store opened in Columbus in 1997.

Meanwhile, the executive director of MidTown Inc., is excited that a replacement store was announced quickly. The area known as midtown includes Cross Country Plaza.

“The fact that Cross Country had an immediate answer for Books-A-Million’s closing, and that an established company seeking a Columbus presence chose Cross Country, affirms the ongoing retail revitalization of the Cross Country shopping area,” Anne King said. “This is exciting news for MidTown and for Columbus.”