Queen City, Bernie's Join Nationwide

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Charlotte, N.C. - Former NATM Buying Corp. members Queen City and Bernie's have joined the Nationwide Marketing Group.

For Bernie's, the move represents a rebirth of the 63-year-old Connecticut-based business which shut its doors in February.

For Queen City, the 11-store CE and appliance chain based here, the change marks a return to Nationwide, where it had been a buying group member through much of the 1980s and 1990s.

Queen City CEO Roddey Player said the return was prompted by Nationwide's enhanced marketing programs and its warehouse distribution system. The latter will provide it with Samsung inventory after Queen City's volume requirements fell below the vendor's direct-ship minimum.

The chain continues to receive most of its inventory in container shipments direct from manufacturers, Player told TWICE, although high unemployment within Charlotte's banking industry and the consolidation of four stores have impacted sales.

Robert Weisner, executive VP of member services at Nationwide, said Queen City joined the group's Brand Builders division, comprised of its 60 largest dealers. Nationwide provides special programs for Brand Builders members that support their multi-store operations, he said.

Separately, Weisner confirmed that a reborn Bernie's will formally join the group with the opening of its first Bernie's Home Central store on June 1 in Manchester, Conn. Bernie's principal Milton Rosenberg will likely draw inventory from warehouses operated by Nationwide's local NECO chapter, and is planning additional locations, Weisner said.

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, Rosenberg received bankruptcy court approval last month to buy the chain's name for $150,000 from Citizen's Bank, its largest secured lender. Rosenberg said the new store will stock brand-name appliances, TVs and bedding, and that a second location will open later this year.

The new store marks the fourth incarnation of the company, which Rosenberg's father Bernard started as a gas station in 1947. The chain went belly up after its acquisition in 1985 by Newmark & Lewis, and was bought back six years later by the younger Rosenberg, who rebuilt it into a 15-store business with locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It liquidated this year after high costs, low margins and the anemic New England economy forced its closure in February.

Calls to Rosenberg's attorneys seeking comment were not returned at post time.

In related news, former Bernie's president/COO Mike Honeyman was appointed president/chief operating officer of Trans World Entertainment, which operates the f.y.e. and Suncoast entertainment software chains.

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