Ron Matcham purchased the old Value City building in Carlisle Township with the belief it was the perfect location to relocate his plastics factory. But when he discovered the ceilings were too low and the lack of high-power voltage would make the move logistically impossible, he was left with an abandoned building in an economically depressed part of town.

So Matcham set out to find a tenant who could use the space. Now Rural King, which opened in early September, is expected to be a catalyst to the revitalization of the area. “I want to bring that section of town back to life,” Matcham says. “I don’t see any reason why it can’t come back.”

Rural King is a national farm and home store that sells farm equipment, lawn and garden supplies, tools, toys and pet supplies. It is best known for its appeal to farmers. “If you think of the old general store where you can go in and find anything, that’s what we’re like,” says owner Tom White. He opened the Carlisle Township location following the success of his Wooster store. White says he loves the location because of its proximity to the farms in southern Lorain County and the urban setting to the north.

“We appeal to the farmer, both full and part time, the hobby farmer and the rural do-it-yourselfer,” White says. “But we also have a lot of products that appeal to people in an urban setting.”

White likes to call visiting his stores “shoppertainment” because of the free popcorn and activities for patrons. The Wooster location holds a free hog roast every fall. White purchases the hogs from the Wayne County Fair to support the local 4-H’ers, then cooks and serves them in the parking lot.

White employs 40 and 50 workers at the Carlisle Township store. He knows it’s tricky to put a new business in such a challenging area, but believes he has the right mix of demographics to make it a success.

“We see the opportunity to be part of the regrowth that hopefully is going to come to the area,” says White. “There is virtually nothing on that side of town. People who do want to shop have to drive to the north end. There’s an opportunity for us to be part of the revitalization.”

Matcham owns Quality Blow Molding, a manufacturing plant that makes plastic parts for leaf blowers, dishwashers and washing machines. Once he realized the old Value City facility wasn’t feasible for his needs, he wanted to convert the land into something similar to the I-X Center or a community center.

But when Realtors presented Rural King, it was a perfect fit. The retail store consumes the entire 77,300 square feet of the old Value City space. Matcham also has a 25,000-square-foot flea market, an Aldi and a barbecue restaurant on the property.

It’s only fitting that Matcham would own the former Value City property and be in charge of restoring it. As a boy, all of his clothes came from the store. “When I turned 18, I told my mother I’d never step foot in Value City again,” Matcham says. “The rest is history.” — Jason Lloyd