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Furniture, home decor firm hopes to Wow in Fort Lawn

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By Stephen Guilfoyle

FORT LAWN – When they walked into the abandoned textile plants and saw all the space, the people who bought it said, “Wow” When people who see it now, with interior walls knocked down to give it more open floor space, with better lighting, the looms gone, replaced by rugs, furniture and home decor items for sale, they are saying, “Wow” So Stanley Atkins thought, “That’d be a good name for it.” Atkins and his wife, Sandy, own Wow Home Furnishings. Wow officially opened at the old Elliott and Frances plants in Fort Lawn with a ribbon-cutting on Thursday. The ribbon was different from those used at other openings. It was a ribbon of $5 bills taped together. It totaled $500. Lt. Richard Hulse of the Fort Lawn Fire Department was there to receive the ribbon, once cut, as a donation to the department. Hulse was standing by Chester County Economic Development Director Karlisa Parker before the ceremony. “I didn’t realize why he was staying so close,” she said. “Then I realized it was for this.” Atkins said he came to Chester County because of the people and is following a business model he has used successfully elsewhere. He bought old mills and filled them with home furnishings. “They stack ’em deep and sell ’em cheap,” said Chester County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey. Wow has already hired about 30 people, but the firm plans to hire more. There is a manufacturing component to the business, and Wow is seeking incentives, which Chester County has tentatively approved.  Wow will get material for some of its furnishings and furniture through the port of Charleston, and ship it to Fort Lawn by rail. Some furniture will be sent out for retail sales elsewhere. About half of the assembled merchandise will be sold wholesale in Fort Lawn. The company has 12 acres of material under the two roofs of the old plants. Rugs and furniture are being sold from the old Frances Plant, while home decor is being sold at the old Elliott Plant. Atkins said he had retired, but almost immediately went about looking for another project.  He spent about 18 months putting the deal together – about three of those in discussions with Chester County officials once he found the plants. The deal was closed in May and the company went about the demolition, knocking down walls and preparing the space for its new use, Atkins said.  Wow opened about a month ago and business has been decent.  Atkins hopes it will pick up now that the official ribbon cutting is out of the way. Hal Stone, the county’s business retention and expansion coordinator, has a similar reaction to many. When he comes in, it gets to him.

“I remember this as having looms, equipment,” he said. “To see it now, full of items for sale, getting reused?” Stone said. “Wow.”