Entrepreneurs In The Wyoming Valley Eyed For New Resale Franchise Stores

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Winmark Corporation, parent company of resale stores such as Play It Again Sports and Music Go Round, is eyeing Northeastern Pennsylvania for entrepreneurs interested in opening up to five additional company brand stores. click image to enlarge Harry McDonnell strums a tune on a guitar at his Music Go Round shop in Wilkes-Barre Township. The store specializes in used instruments and equipment and is owned by McDonnell and his wife Linda.

S. JOHN WILKIN / THE TIMES LEADER click image to enlarge Plato's Closet store Manager Katie Tracy, 23, of Tioga, N.Y., left, and co-owner Julie Simmons, 46, of Vestal, N.Y., stand with some of the clothes recently collected at the new Dickson City store.

CHRISTOPHER J. HUGHES / FOR THE TIMES LEADER Select images available for purchase in the Times Leader Photo Store The rights for one franchise Plato's Closet has been sold to Ryan and Julie Simmons of Vestal, N.Y. The couple opened the store at 1029 Commerce Boulevard in Dickson City last week and will buy merchandise strictly from the community in anticipation of the store's grand opening in June.

Plato's Closet buys and sells teens and twenty-somethings brand name apparel, shoes and accessories. There are more than 280 franchised stores in the United States and Canada. The Simmons already operate a franchise in their hometown.

Winmark, based in Minneapolis, Minn. and publicly traded on the NASDAQ, is also looking at locations and franchisees for its Play It Again Sports, Once Upon A Child and Music Go Round brands locally.

According to company spokeswoman Jayne Levy, Winmark sees the market as "a great opportunity for one store of each brand. The demographics (Winmark looks) for young families, children under age 13, junior/senior high enrollment and college enrollments all meet or exceed (Winmark's) goals for a market of this size. The real estate is affordable and fits well into their business plans." In fact, Pete First, director of franchise development of Winmark Corporation, said the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market could be the first of its size in the nation with at least one of each franchise.

He said the region's low real estate costs and penchant for good deals makes it an ideal target market for growth.

According to Levy, the company has already selected municipalities for the brands.

Once Upon A Child, which buys used children's clothing, toys and equipment and resells them, is looking to locate in both Wilkes-Bare and Scranton. The chain currently has nearly 240 franchised stores in the U.S. and 24 in Canada. Currently the closest franchise in is Harrisburg.

Play It Again Sports buys and sells sports equipment and gear. The chain currently has a location in Plains Township among its more than 330 franchised stores in the United States and Canada. The company is looking to bring a location to Scranton.

Music Go Round buys, sells, and trades used and new music gear such as guitars, drums, keyboards, sound equipment and accessories. The chain currently has a location in Wilkes-Barre Township among its 35 franchised stores in the United States. The company is looking to open a store in Dunmore.

Harry McDonnell, of Shavertown, has owned the only Music Go Round franchise in Northeast Pennsylvania since 1999 with his wife Linda. He said he welcomes the potential for a second Music Go Round in the region.

"I think the market can support it," said McDonnell, who moved his store to the Wilkes-Barre Township Commons from the East End Center in 2004. He said he draws from the Poconos, Hazleton and Clarks Summit regions now and while he may lose some business with a new location in Dunmore, he said added visibility of the brand's name and a potential to share advertising costs with the new franchisee would be benefits.

In addition to affordable items for the community and a chance for people to make money selling their items to the stores, the businesses also bring jobs, Levy said.

Depending on the brand each store can employ 2 to 3 full-time employees along with 8 to15 part- time workers.

First said that quality resale shops have seen growth as the economy has struggled, with people looking to stretch their dollars without sacrificing fashion or love of music.

"This economy is kind of the perfect storm for what we do," First said.

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