The Hattiesburg American


Common Thread? Bargain price tags at Treasure Hunt, Dirt Cheap

By La Tonya Frelix
American Staff Writer
Thursday June 24, 2010

The one thing that remains a constant at Treasure Hunt and Dirt Cheap stores is the search for bargains. Rosemarie Flynt of Laurel can attest to that.

“You never know what you’re going to find,” she said while shopping at the Cloverleaf Mall store.

“The prices are great. If you go into a regular store, you know what they have, but here, there’s always something that we may not have access to in small towns like this.”

Once change that patrons may have noticed is the removal of the Hudson’s name from Treasure Hunt stores.

Chief Executive Officer Rob Roberts acknowledged a change of ownership but would not comment otherwise, citing it as a “private matter.”

He said the name removal is an attempt for properties to become a better corporate brand and not to be tied to a particular surname or brand.

H.C. Hudson

The first Hudson’s opened in Palmer’s Crossing more than 60 years ago when fire destroyed H.C. Hudson’s general store. Hudson asked the insurance adjuster what would happen to the smoke-damaged groceries and the adjuster sold them back to Hudson.

The next day, H.C. Hudson held a half-price “fire sale.” Since then, the company has purchased salvage merchandise from the insurance companies to resell in its stores.

Hudson’s is now the leading purchaser of insurance salvage merchandise in the U.S. with 900,000 square feet of distribution space in the Hattiesburg area, Roberts said in an earlier interview.

The Hattiesburg-based corporation now has seven Treasure Hunt and 47 Dirt Cheap stores in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The company has about 1,200 employees.

Treasure Hunt specializes in providing customers with merchandise from retail insurance salvage claims, marked out of stock inventory, closeouts and distressed inventories.

Dirt Cheap stores specialize in the disposition of customer return inventories.

A Dirt Cheap Building store recently opened in the Cloverleaf Center. Roberts said a 1-million square-foot distribution center opened in Blue Mountain to service store growth in North Mississippi and Alabama.

Roberts said the Blue Mountain center “eventually allows the company to reach Tennessee and Kentucky.”

More Changes

Treasure Hunt stores have scaled back operation hours and are now open 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday -Saturday and closed Sundays.

“We changed the hours primarily for staff safety, but we also looked at customer shopping patterns and we were doing very little business,” Roberts said. “We’ve been doing that for years at the Dirt Cheap stores.”

Crystal Lee Hudson-Eckrich, a great-granddaughter of H.C. Hudson, said she hopes exterior and interior upgrades will improve the Treasure Hunt shopping experience.

A commercial and residential interior designer, Hudson-Eckrich recently completed her first project – a complete renovation of the company’s corporate office at U.S. 49 North.

Her next project – hopefully – will be the Hattiesburg Treasure Hunt location in Cloverleaf Mall.

Improvements will include changes to the company’s signage, an interior facelift for better shopping areas and dressing rooms.

Roberts said customers may see these upgrades by the fall with Dirt Cheap locations to follow.

“For years, we’ve been down and dirty and on the fly, and this is our effort to be organized and shopper friendly,” Roberts said. “When our customers walk into our store, we want them to have a very good idea of what’s new and what the background on some of the deals we have.”

While looking through men’s clothing on Thursday, Pam and Rena Smith of Monticello said they have already noticed a difference.

“It’s been years since we shopped here,” Rena Smith said.

“A friend called us a couple of days ago and told us about this shipment.”

While shuffling through a rack of shirts, Pam Smith said she will venture back to the store sooner.

“It’s a lot nicer and everything is in order.”

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