Claiborne Hill expands store

Published 1:48 pm Thursday, December 31, 2009

While some businesses are cutting back or even closing in these sluggish economic times, one locally owned store is expanding and renovating due to increased business.

Anyone who passes by or frequents the local Claiborne Hill grocery store has noticed that in the past year the entire building has undergone renovation and expansion work. The idea to expand and renovate came after Hurricane Katrina brought a boom to business, which has yet to abate, said Claiborne Hill Store Manager Garrett Acquistapace.

Acquistapace said the work to renovate the store, which is owned by his parents, began around Christmas of 2008 and is now nearing completion. Some things that still need to be completed include tongue and grove wood veneer under the store’s canopy, store signs for the two other businesses in the building and wood ceilings throughout the inside of the store.

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With the expansion came the addition of a seafood department and the ability to boil crabs, shrimp and crawfish when they are in season. There is also room for a smoker for smoking meats in store, which will be installed at a later date.

In the front of the store Acquistapace plans to install a lunch bar so up to 12 people can enjoy their Claiborne Hill lunches. Acquistapace said he has plans for a service counter that will offer coffee and popcorn. Other planned additions include additional freezer cases and two more cash registers.

While some places are cutting back on employees, Acquistapace said he was able to add a couple of more staff that were needed after the expansion, brining his total staff to about 62 employees. When the two additional registers are installed he might need to hire a couple of more people, though he said he has enough staff to handle them.

Most of the people he employs live in Pearl River County, except for three who live in Louisiana including himself.

The outside work should be complete within a month, but the work inside the store will be ongoing for the next four months or so, Acquistapace said.

Estimated cost to do all of the work to the store is about $1.5 million, Acquistapace said. That cost will not affect product prices, he said. He said even though the store is still under construction it looks much better than before. Already Acquistapace said he has received a number of compliments from customers.

“I think it’s an asset to Picayune and Pearl River County,” Acquistapace said.

The family owned business also plans to establish a Claiborne Hill in Waveland. While those plans have been temporarily placed on hold, Acquistapace said the location will become a reality. Work to renovate the former Save-A-Center building in Waveland to accommodate Claiborne Hill’s needs ceased when it became apparent that the work was hindering completion of renovation work in Picayune, Acquistapace said. The Waveland store will employ people mostly from Hancock County when completed.

The old Save-A-Center in Waveland is a 40,000 square foot building, of which Claiborne Hill will use about 30,000 square feet, Acquistapace said. He expects work on that location to be completed faster than the Picayune location since workers won’t have to work around customers.

When the Waveland store is complete it will be the second Claiborne Hill location owned by the Acquistapace family.