(Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the Showplace is located in Mechanicsville. It is in Henrico County.)
A 30-year-old expo center in Henrico County known for its gun shows is closing down to make way for a big retailer that’s looking to expand in Richmond.
The Showplace, at 3000 Mechanicsville Turnpike, will put on its last show this spring as the 75,000-square-foot building will be taken over by discount clothing and merchandise store Roses.
Showplace owner Bill Crenshaw of Crenshaw-Singleton Properties said that the expo business has slowed and that retail made sense for the property.
“Shows in general have dropped off and, for the shows themselves, all the numbers are down,” he said. “So this was strictly a business decision. A lot of people are trying to read politics into it. It was just a business decision.”
Crenshaw said that a deal had been in the works for the Showplace property since before Thanksgiving and that the final details of the lease with Roses are being hammered out.
“I’ve had lots of people inquire about the Showplace for years,” he said. “At least once a year, I get someone who wants to lease it up, but it has either been too big or too small. This one worked out, though.”
Roses should be up and running by early August, in time for back-to-school sales.
Crenshaw’s family has been involved in the property, which sits on about 17.5 acres, since the early 1970s when it was Zayre Department Store.
It was converted to an exhibition center in 1985 and at its peak was doing about 100 shows a year. Crenshaw said he would charge between $4,000 and $5,000 dollars a day for the space.
Since then, business has dropped by 25 to 30 percent. Some business lines – such as private trade shows – have disappeared completely, he said. In addition to gun shows, the Showplace rents space to everything from doll shows to knife shows to pet expos.
Crenshaw said the remaining 25,0000-square-foot Annex of the building is still being marketed for lease.
Phil Pope, senior vice president of real estate for Roses parent company Variety Wholesalers Inc., said the property’s location matched the company’s target demographic.
“Our company looks for underserved markets,” Pope said. “We look for a customer base with a median household income of $50,000 or less. … We have looked at this area before. We think that a Roses store will serve this area well.”
Pope said Variety Wholesalers, based in Henderson, N.C., has some 350 stores, mostly in the Southeast, including more than 150 Roses locations. The store has one location in Ashland and three in Hampton Roads. In January, it announced that a new store would open in Virginia Beach.
Roses was founded in 1915 in Henderson. By the mid-1990s, it had fallen behind Kmart and Walmart and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Variety Wholesalers bought the chain in 1997.
Pope said the company doesn’t know how much the build-out would cost and hasn’t settled on a general contractor.
A 75,000-square-foot lease is a big number for a retail sector that ranks as the worst in the Richmond metro area. According to a market report from Colliers International, vacancy in Richmond’s southeast quadrant is 10 percent.