January 29, 2004

Variety Store Moves, Expands on Commons

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After switching locations and adding merchandise, Ray’s Office Supply and Variety Store plans to have its grand opening the week of Feb. 12, just in time for Ithaca’s Annual Chili Cook-Off.

The store, which is in the former CVS location, has been open since December, and continues to get more items in stock every day. What started as a store with office and art supplies and a copy center has adopted aisles of everything from shampoo to over-the-counter medicines, razor blades, condoms and bake wear.

“Plus, we now have snack items like soda and chips, and a small line of groceries. On Monday, we will be getting a section of milk, eggs, and bread,” said Lynda Thompson, retail manager of the new store.

The front of the store, which is now full of displays, will soon feature a self-serve coffee bar.

“We hope to get coffee machines. Right now we are taste testing different kinds of coffee,” Thompson said.

There will be tables in the front near the coffee section and seats are soon to be decided upon.

“We will have wireless Internet access that will allow basic surfing and checking mail,” said Norm Rich, business product manager.

Besides food and drugs, the store has a new section devoted to stationery. There are magazines, cards, newspapers and personalized stationery is soon to come.

Ever since the location change, “people are here everyday. There is no age limit. We see a little bit of everybody. A lot of people come in and say ‘thank you for being here!'” Thompson said.

After CVS closed down a few years ago, they left an empty store and a gap in the Ithaca community.

“Who wants to go to a grocery store to pick up a bottle of shampoo? Here, you can just stop in during your lunch break and grab a bag of chips to go with your sandwich,” said Thompson.

With ten to twelve employees in total, Thompson is not alone. She strays from her title as retail manager and does everything from customer service to running the register, buying and scheduling.

“I’m the jack of all trades,” Thompson joked.

Anyone who journeys into the back of the enormous store is likely to meet Ruth Mitchell, whose job is to bind, laminate, mount and blow up images in the copy center.

“We do a lot of custom work here. They did have a copy center at the old store, but we were much more separate then. A lot more people are finding us back here,” Mitchell said.

She continued, “What else do we do? I could go on and on and on.”

Ray’s Office Supply and Variety Store has filled a niche that was missing from downtown Ithaca.

“People who didn’t used to venture over to our other location are stopping in to see the new store. It’s a great little spot here, I’ll tell ya,” Mitchell said.

Archived article by Jessica Liebman