By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY February 22, 2002 There arent a whole lot of sure bets in life.
But as far as John Miller is concerned, the Family Dollar store opening this spring in Liberty may be the closest you can get.
Miller, owner of CTE Construction from Lisbon, Ohio, has joined with Liberty developers Norman and Kaye Kerr to breathe life back into the village.
And theyve started with the old Woolworths building, a stately brick structure on Main Street in the heart of town.
The Kerrs, owners of Village Properties, have purchased a number of properties in Liberty in the hopes that new businesses looking at expansion to Sullivan County will take notice of the town.
And Family Dollar is one of the first to sign on.
The national chain store hopes to open its Liberty branch this spring, and projected revenues are somewhere in the million-dollar-a-year range.
They have been checking out Liberty for two years, Miller explained. They dont just walk into a town and open a store theyve been testing and doing surveys here.
This is an ideal location.
As for why Family Dollar would pick Liberty, Miller said thats simple.
From a shoppers point of view, I can tell you its needed, Miller said. Before I knew there was an Ames here, I had to drive at least 10 miles out of town just to find an alarm clock.
According to Kaye Kerr, there are several chains who might move into Liberty and save residents a trip to the Galleria mall in Middletown.
We see Liberty as a mixture of homegrown Mom and Pop stores, antique shops, ice cream parlors, mixed in with several national chains that people need and depend on these days, she said.
The Family Dollar store, which offers everything from housewares to wrapping paper, will be the first of several spots for shopping in the heart of downtown, Miller explained.
In that sense, the new store will be like its predecessor.
The building went up sometime in the late 1950s, said Town of Liberty Supervisor Dick Martinkovic, and housed F.W. Woolworth right up until the business closed in the early 1990s.
It was one of the last ones to close, Martinkovic recalled.
During his youth, the supervisor remembers stopping at the store, which had everything from cosmetics to toys to clothing plus a luncheonette counter and tables for the patrons.
I guess Im dating myself here, he laughed. But it was always a very busy store.
The store employed tons of Libertys residents through the years, he added, and hes happy to see something coming back in its place.
From the supervisors perspective, Im glad to see it rebuilt with a good business in there, he said.
But before the store can open, Village Properties is making improvements on the building, with CTE Construction and local contractors doing the work.
The old fish market next door was torn down to build a parking lot for patrons so they wouldnt have to find parking on the street.
And the old facade came down Wednesday morning so that Millers crews can bring a classier look to the aging storefront.
The brick will be covered over with a synthetic light gray stucco, and columns will be added in the front in keeping with the old-fashioned look of Libertys downtown.
Its going to be really pretty looking, Miller said. I think the people around here are really going to like it.
And for those who remember Woolworths in their youth, pieces of the buildings history are being saved.
One of the two pieces of valuable red glass that were perched atop the doorframe and etched with the name F.W. Woolworth Co. will likely be hung in Alberts Liberty House with other Town of Liberty memorabilia, said Miller.
Village Properties next project will be at the old Phils Supermarket site on Main Street.
According to Kaye, CTE is planning on demolishing the structure within the next several days. And Village Properties is also talking with a national movie chain about a new four-screen theatre.
For whatever reason, she said, many exciting things are happening in Liberty.