Longaberger Factory Store opens with hundreds of basket lovers and a few Browns fans

July 08, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • A line forms outside the new Longaberger Factory Store at the Hagerstown Premium Outlets Friday.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

Good things from Ohio wind up in Maryland.

That is if you're a fan of the Cleveland Browns or Longaberger baskets.

On Friday, hundreds of basket lovers and a few Browns fans turned out for the grand opening of a Longaberger Factory Store at Hagerstown Premium Outlets.

Longaberger CEO Tami Longaberger was joined at the ribbon-cutting ceremony by former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, who signed autographs and posed for pictures.

Two years after Kosar left the Browns in 1993, then-owner Art Modell announced that he was moving the franchise east. The team became the Baltimore Ravens.

"The reception is phenomenal," Kosar said. "I think here they appreciate football. There's really a loyal football base here."

Longaberger, whose company is based in Frazeysburg, Ohio, said she decided to open a store in Western Maryland because the residents are "huge basket lovers."

"Every time I visited here, there's been an outpouring of people," she said. "Obviously, you're looking for sites that are going to be successful. ... That's why we're here in Hagerstown."

The Longaberger Factory Store had a soft opening July 1, but company officials waited until Friday to hold the grand opening ceremony, said Sherry Pattison, executive director of destinations for Longaberger baskets.

She said the grand opening will last until July 17. During that time, customers will enjoy 20 percent savings.

Longaberger Factory Stores primarily sell products from the previous sales season and items that never made it to the market. In addition to baskets, the Longaberger Factory Store at Premium Outlets sells handbags, silverware, sofas and other items.

"Because they were never introduced to the sales field, they are priced lower," Pattison said.

The Longaberger company invited more than 4,000 of its independent sales consultants to the grand opening, Pattison said. The consultants will receive a commission if they direct customers to the Factory Store.

"I really think this will help grow their business," Pattison said. "It's an opportunity to introduce a guest to our product without having a home show."

Roseann Harris, a Longaberger sales consultant from Winchester, Va., said she brought about 15 people with her to try to recruit them into the business.

"A lot of them are my customers," she said.

Harris said sales stalled for a while because of the sluggish economy, but things seem to be picking up.

Kosar and some of the Browns fans at Friday's event said they hoped the Browns' winning ways would pick up as well.

Hagerstown resident and Ohio native Shawn Heimberger wore a Kosar jersey and Browns hat as he waited in line to get the former All-Pro's autograph.

He said he rated Kosar as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Browns' history, and said he hoped the team would someday reach the grandeur it enjoyed before the Super Bowl era, when the club won four National Football League championships.

"If they beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore and shut these people up, it will be something I can live with," he said.

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