Sears building

Chris Gamble, owner of Gamble Home, stands inside the old Sears building, which he and fellow businessman Ted Herget bought this week.

JONESBORO — The coronavirus pandemic and March 28 tornado have created major changes in the region’s business climate – much of it bad.

But this week, the owners of two businesses hard hit by the tornado took steps to revitalize the old Sears building on Caraway Road at Highland Drive.

Chris Gamble, owner of Gamble Home, and Ted Herget, owner of Geared Outfitters, closed on the purchase Tuesday from Memphis developer Marty Belz. The two local business leaders agreed to pay $4.9 million for the 82,000-square-foot building and the 5.8 acres of land on which it sits, Haag Brown Commercial announced.

Gamble said he plans to make the old Sears building his company’s flagship store.

“Since both me and Ted’s mall stores got hit by the tornado, this was just a good fit for me and Ted to team up together and bring something else local to our local community,” Gamble told The Sun. “We’re going to occupy about 35,000 feet and Ted’s going to occupy approximately 20,000 and then we’re going to have about 25,000 left over to sell. Hopefully, another local tenant will come in with us and do it.”

Herget said he and Gamble had grown impatient, with no information from the owners of The Mall at Turtle Creek. When Gamble gave him the chance to partner on the Sears building, he didn’t hesitate.

“Chris is a great guy to work with,” Herget said.

As he has done with his original Jonesboro store on the Farville curve, Gamble said he and Herget plan to convert part of the massive parking lot into a space for community events.

“We’re going to be tearing out over half of the parking lot out here and making a community area for the grassy area to have community events on the property,” Gamble said. “... We’re going to make it a destination shopping. We’re probably two of the largest local people in the area that give back to the communities, and this was just another way to give back to a community that’s helped us grow our businesses over the years.”

The stores are expected to open in the spring of 2021, Gamble said.

“We want people to come to our community and shop and not go to Little Rock or Memphis,” Herget said, adding that Jonesboro has lost a lot of those customers since the tornado.

Herget said his new store will employ about 30 people, up from the number he employed at the mall.

Gamble said the Farville curve store will remain open. Gamble also owns Ashley Furniture stores in Blytheville, Batesville and Searcy.

Also, as a result of the tornado, Gamble acquired the former Price Chopper building at Trumann to serve as a distribution center to supply all of the stores.

Herget’s Gearhead Outfitters originated in Jonesboro and now has stores in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Rogers and Bentonville, plus stores in Springfield, Mo., Tulsa, Okla., and Shreveport, La.

Also part of the Gearhead family is Uncle Dan’s Outdoor stores in Chicago, Highland Park, Evanston and Bannockburg, Ill., and Glendale, Wis., and Rock/Creek Outfitters in Chattanooga, Franklin, Benton and Cleveland, Tenn.

Josh Brown, a principal at Haag Brown Commercial, said this week’s deal was historic.

“This is the most meaningful retail transaction for Jonesboro in the last decade,” Brown said in a news release. “You have two locally cultivated Jonesboro businesses joining forces to purchase and invest in the single most important retail building in the city’s history.”

Sears was one of the original stores in the Indian Mall when it opened in 1968 and it was the last store to close in 2017.

Gamble said it may appear to be a big investment and big risk for he and Herget, but he believes time will show it to be a bargain buy.

“Traffic patterns change, but this will always be a hot corner,” he said. “It was 50 years ago and it is today.”