RICHMOND, Indiana — It's been more than a year since NBC's "Today" weekend co-host Erica Hill and producer/videographer Samantha Wender visited Veach's Toy Station and they liked what they saw when they walked in Wednesday afternoon.
"It really looks great in here," Hill said. "It's so warm and inviting."
The store underwent an NBC-sponsored "Main Street Makeover" in December 2013 with advice from Martin Lindstrom, author of "buy-ology." The makeover was featured on national TV in February 2014, and the crew returned in July 2014 for an update that aired in August 2014.
Hill and Wender returned to Richmond to interview co-owners John and Shari Veach about how business has been since the makeover. The pair planned to travel on to Nashville, Tennessee, to catch up with the Biscuit Love Food Truck, which received a makeover at the same time as Veach's.
"We wanted to see how everybody was doing," Hill said. No air date has been slated for the latest update yet, Hill said.
Things are going well, John Veach said, with sales growing 5 percent last year and already increasing by another 7 to 8 percent this year. He attributes much of that growth to the makeover and Lindstrom's branding and marketing advice.
"We're growing, not surviving," he said.
Veach's, at 715 E. Main St. in Richmond, has been family owned and operated since 1938. The shop offers 16,000 square feet of fun and educational toys for kids of all ages.
In 2013, a surprise email from a producer at "Today," who was looking for a family-owned toy store for a makeover, set the changes in motion.
"Shari and I had just bought the store from my parents," John Veach said. "We were definitely in a transition period. We knew we had to change things up. We had to set ourselves apart.
"They helped us so much with our marketing, with our website," he said.
Shari Veach said, "Things happen for a reason. The timing was awesome."
Visibly, the merchandise has been moved to lower shelves where children can access it more readily. There are play areas in the store to test games and toys. The aisles are wider and feel less crowded. And this year, the Veaches developed a special area in the store's mezzanine for educational materials, particularly for purchase by teachers.
"It's great to hear they're not in survival mode," Hill said. "It's nice to see how it's working. We're excited to be back. We love being a part of this project. We look forward to following their success for years to come.
"The fact they're truly going so strong now. I think it gives a lot of people hope," she added. "It sounds like the community is really behind their new efforts. It's great to see how much support they have."
John Veach hopes that the store and the results of the makeover serve as an inspiration to other businesses. He's pleased to see positive changes and anticipates the Stellar Community grants will make an even bigger impact.
"I'm happy to see the growth around us," he said. "There's a lot of things going on downtown. This is a hopping place."
Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, http://pinews.co/1FQ9eS0
Information from: Palladium-Item, http://www.pal-item.com