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- 2017 - March - 17th -

Workspace: New owner of J&W Discount says Murray Hill store is a ‘treasure hunt’

By Caren Burmeister, Contributing Writer

Mike Danhour walks to a glass display case at J&W Discount Store in Murray Hill and proudly points to Beats Solo3 wireless headphones.

“This retails for $220 — I just saw it at that price at the airport — and we sell it here for $150,” said Danhour, the store’s new owner.

With its peeling floors, dark corners and dusty shelves, the store at 4045 Post St. has seen better days. But that’s about to change.

The 12,000-square-foot business off Edgewood Avenue, west of the Murray Hill Theatre, sells discounted clothing, furniture, electronics, packaged groceries and household goods.

“What I love about this place is it’s a treasure hunt,” said Danhour as he pulled a men’s Calvin Klein shirt off the rack to show the label and $9.99 price tag.

This is the first retail venture for Danhour, president of a housing rehabilitation, land development and brokerage service known as the Danhour Group.

“There’s a lot of moving parts, that’s for sure,” he said.

Danhour said he’s keeping the store’s knowledeagable staff, about 11 employees, to help the project succeed.

“I’m joining their family,” Danhour said. “They know the customers and products a lot better than I do.”

Danhour bought J&W Discount Store on March 1 and plans to spend $100,000 on paint, flooring and other renovations. He also intends to upgrade its inventory system and create a social media presence and online sales though companies like Amazon and eBay.

He said the store has good products and employees, but needs to improve the customer experience.

That’s music to the ears of Susan Snipes, who stops by weekly to shop for her grandchildren.

“I’ve gotten lots of nice clothes here,” she said as she was looking at a three-piece set of shorts and shirts for her 4-year-old grandson, who loves the Quiksilver surf brand. Admiring the price tag, she put it in her basket.

“You can get good deals,” Snipes said. “I stop in a lot to see what’s new.”

Open since 1994, the business buys overstock merchandise, often seasonal products and returns, at a deep discount. Roughly 12 pallets arrive each day.

Original owner Wayne Fanning said he had mixed emotions about selling, but at age 74, he was ready to retire.

“It was kind of low-tech,” Fanning said. “They’re modernizing it.”

Operations Manager Jimmy Anastassiadis said he’s glad to keep his job and participate in the store’s rehabilitation.

“I’m excited,” he said. “A younger person is coming in with a lot of enthusiasm.”

Danhour sees investment potential in discount retail.

While many luxury stores are shrinking their storefronts and focusing on online sales, stores like T.J. Maxx are expanding their facilities, Danhour said.

He plans to invest in several other discount stores in Jacksonville.

Danhour also sees reason to invest in Murray Hill. In the midst of an economic revival, the community — particularly the commercial district along Edgewood Avenue — is attracting numerous restaurants and other businesses.

“Murray Hill is definitely an up-and-coming neighborhood,” Danhour said. “We will have some synergy with that as well.”

But the neighborhood has been through a rough period as evidenced by crime and neglect. It’s still in transition and, for now, the burglar bars remain on the windows at J&W Discount.

General Manager Stephenie Anastassiadis, who has worked there six years, said she used to be afraid to walk to the parking lot by herself. That’s no longer the case.

“I’ve seen a change for the better,” she said. “A sense of community has come back to Murray Hill.”

Pointing to graffiti on the north side of the building, Danhour is under no illusions about the work ahead.

“The building hasn’t had a facelift in a while,” Danhour said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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