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Lincolnton business takes on the giant big-box stores

In today’s modern times, the big-box stores – Office Max, Target, Lowe’s Home Improvement and others – seem to have a lock on attracting business across the country, offering large shops crammed with a multitude of goods at purported bargain-basement prices.
The inevitable strangle-hold on customer base and profits causes smaller businesses to often go out of business once these mega-stores move into town.
One business in Lincolnton hopes to turn the tables around, choosing to locate near several big-box stores instead of shying away from them. That business is Five-Star Discount and Variety, which opened Nov. 3 on Vandiver Drive in the Northgate Shopping Center.
“My husband, Joe and I, along with our daughter Tabitha and her husband, Robbie Trivette, all have talked about wanting to open our own store for quite some time,” said co-owner Jamie Sckipp.
In laying the groundwork for the new business, the family looked to Trivette’s love for flea markets and obtaining merchandise for those markets to guide the way.
Trivette had been going to flea markets for the past six years procuring merchandise for sale at flea markets.
Now, he purchases merchandise for Five-Star.
“We carry discontinued items, salvage goods and shelf-pulls from grocery stores and pharmacies,” said Trivette.
According to Trivette, stores want to get rid of items that aren’t selling. The stores take the items off the shelves and sell them in bulk to people.
“It’s a write-off for them on the taxes and the items sell as well,” said Trivette.
Trivette said he gets new merchandise for the store twice per week, sometimes driving two hours one way in an attempt to try and continuously carry some of the same items in the store.
He also claims Five-Star’s prices are even lower than stores like Dollar General and Family Dollar, because the broker — or the person responsible for purchasing large quantities for larger stores — is no longer necessary. That eliminates the mark-ups seen in larger stores.
“The price range of our merchandise is a quarter to $40,” said Trivette. “On average, our items run between $1 and $4.”
In picking the location for the new store, the Trivettes and Sckipps wanted a location that was halfway between Trivette’s home of Maiden and Sckipp’s Denver residence.
Also, according to Trivette, they now want to send the larger stores a message regarding personal service.
“The biggest complaint is you can’t ever find anyone to wait on you at these stores,” he said.
Customers, according to Sckipp, are treated more like family by offering personal service. So much so that two of her customers helped her move recently.
Friendships extend beyond sales.
“I also have a couple who comes in every Saturday. If they don’t, I worry about them,” she said.
Upon discovering Five-Star, many people become repeat customers.
Lori Norris of Lincolnton is one of those repeat customers.
“This is where I get my girls’ hair bows,” she said. “I’m not paying $4 for hair bows.”
Norris said she also buys her hair care products at Five-Star.
Elisabeth Burford has been coming to Five-Star since the shop opened.
She, like many first-time customers to Five-Star, discovered the business was there by accident.
“I was paying my car insurance when I realized they were here,” she said. “Mom and I come here all the time now.”
Bonnie Armstrong of Lincolnton said the surprise isn’t in what the store carries.
“The prices are a big surprise to me,” she said.
According to Sckipp, future plans for the store include the possibility of expanding and even selling food.
“We’ll wait and see how the summer season goes,” she said.

Five-Star Discount Variety Shop is opened 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call (704) 732-0215.
by Jon Mayhew

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