MATTOON -- Bill's Radiator Shop owner Eric Rodewald has made many early morning trips to the Mattoon Rural King stores over the years to purchase supplies. During one of these routine trips on Wednesday, he inadvertently became the first customer at this store's newly opened location in the Cross County Mall.
After stopping for a celebratory photo taken by Rural King's staff, Rodewald headed onto the sales floor to get the bolts he needed for his shop. Rodewald said later that he likes the layout of the new Mattoon Rural King and that it is located on the east side of town, closer to his business and in the mall.
"I think it will bring a lot more people to the mall and will hopefully bring more stores out here," Rodewald said.
The Mattoon Rural King farm and home store officially opened for business at 7 a.m. Wednesday in the former Sears space, which mall property owner Rural King Realty has extensively renovated. Throughout the day, a steady stream of customers checked out at cash registers near the store's exterior front entrance and its interior mall concourse entrance.
Store Manager Melissa Cowger said she saw a lot of regular Mattoon Rural King customers, including many contractors, shopping at the new location on its first day open.
"There are also a lot of new faces I have not seen before, so that means we are reaching different customers too," Cowger said.
The Mattoon Rural King store was previously located at 4216 Dewitt Ave. on the northwest edge of town. Rural King plans to continue using the DeWitt facility as its company headquarters and distribution center. The company decided to move its Mattoon store to the Cross County Mall on the east side of town after purchasing this property in fall 2017.
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"The things we look forward to most are being able to reach to rest of the Mattoon community and being able to help revitalize the mall," Cowger said of the new location. "That is exciting for me because I grew up in Mattoon."
The store's new location is slightly smaller than the old one, so Cowger said it took some creativity to make the space work and ensure that the store can continue carrying all of its products.
Cowger said the new location does offer more front cash registers and wider register lanes than the old location. She said this store's front entrance also offers a drive through with a 60-foot steel awning, under which customers can load merchandise or shuttle passengers while sheltered from bad weather.
Snack and other pantry items, as well as clothing, are located adjacent to the front entrance cash registers. Pet supplies are located next to the interior mall entrance cash register. Jim and Kimberly Pinkston bought supplies for their two dogs there Wednesday morning, including a new coat that 4-month old Boston terrier Sophie wore out the door.
Kimberly Pinkston said this was Sophie's first visit to a Rural King store, but their 8-year-old Staffordshire terrier Miah had been to the store's former location many times. Pinkston said she appreciates that Rural King is continuing to let them and other dog owners shop with their canines at the new location.
Terry and Claudia Hurst of Lerna checked out at the interior mall entrance Wednesday morning during their first visit to the new store location. The Hursts, who are regular Rural King shoppers, said they like the layout of the new store and its location on the east side of town.
"We like it. It's closer to us," Claudia Hurst said.