Local News

Sanford Lowe's rebuilding after storm

Posted May 25, 2011 9:01 a.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2011 4:52 p.m. EDT

— Less than six weeks after a tornado severely damaged the Lowe's store in Sanford, the home-improvement chain began rebuilding the store Wednesday.

"A store of this size represents an average investment in the community of more than $10 million and will return 160 jobs to the Sanford area," Lowe's announced in a news release.

The damage to the Sanford store was one of the more indelible images of the tornadoes that raked across North Carolina on April 16. Employees were hailed as heroes for moving all customers to safety as the storm smashed the front of the store.

Lowe's worker Mandy Vanderroest got on the store intercom that day to warn everyone of the approaching storm. She said Wednesday that knowing everyone survived has helped her cope with the loss of her workplace.

"You get through it," Vanderroest said. "When you see the devastation in Missouri and all (from tornadoes this week), we are so blessed. Someone was looking out for us."

Crews removed the rubble of the Horner Boulevard building in recent weeks to clear the lot and pave the way for rebuilding.

Lowe's officials said the walls to the new store could be up by the end of next week and the store could be open for business again in August if everything goes according to schedule.

"Since we're gone, we know how much (the community) meant to us and we meant to them because everyday I get, 'When are you coming back? When are you going to rebuild?'" Sanford store manager Mike Hollowell said. "That feels real good when you hear those things because you never know how much you mean to a community or how much the community means to you until, I guess, it's honestly gone."

Lowe's transferred all 160 workers from the Sanford store to other stores across the region, providing transportation for them to Pittsboro, Cary, Fayetteville, Chapel Hill, Southern Pines, Smithfield, Clayton, Erwin, Apex, Mebane, Laurinburg and Durham.

"Everybody loves where they're working – the local stores – but they want to come back," Hollowell said. "I won't be ... whole again until I can walk in my own store with my own people."

Employee Derreck Simmons agreed, saying he and his co-workers are eager to return to Sanford.

"All the employees will get to be back in that family atmosphere," Simmons said. "It won't be that 13-year-old store. It will be nice. It's a new store."

The rebuilt store will have 103,000 square feet of retail space, with an adjacent 34,000-square-foot garden center.

Sanford residents also are excited about getting their Lowe's store back.

"I could come down here any time. Now, I have to go up to Pittsboro," Ethel Petty said. "I am excited. I could just jump up and say, 'Hallelujah.'"