Big 'Buy' here: But Crutchfield has no fear

If you build it, will they come? Alex Howe will. "Best Buy has everything a guy could want," says the fourth year UVA student.

Howe and other gadget fanatics haven't yet learned Best Buy's opening date, but several City officials say they've been hearing a target of November 7. A company spokesperson will neither confirm nor deny– other than to say there will be an impending announcement.

Located on Emmet Street between Angus Road and the Route 250 bypass, the consumer electronics retailer occupies an 8.3-acre parcel purchased in late April for $7.7 million that was most recently the site of the Mount Vernon motor lodge and Aunt Sarah's pancake house.

In what must rank as one of the fastest mammoth construction jobs in local history, the 45,000 square-foot store rose from demolition to opening day in just over five months.

The only whiff of controversy surrounds a new traffic signal in front of the store on traffic-choked Emmet Street. Already installed on an existing pole, the new light has received a "green light" by the City but awaits VDOT approval.

A City-funded review of Best Buy's own traffic study confirms that traffic will move "better" with the new light than without it, according to City planning director Jim Tolbert.

"They've done a great job in complying with everything we asked," says Tolbert, noting that the site's zoning puts no limits– other than parking requirements– on the structure's size. The store could conceivably expand by 20,000 square feet (about the size of the Charlottesville Ice Park).

That's a lot of room for digital cameras, high definition televisions, and dishwashers.

"We welcome the competition," says Kurt Goodwin, an executive with Crutchfield Corporation, the national audio/visual catalogue with a showroom at Rio Hill Shopping Center.

"Quite frankly," says Goodwin, "when Circuit City opened several years ago in Albemarle Square, we were very worried about its impact on our Rio Hill store. For the first few months, our store sales did suffer slightly. However, sales rebounded and have continued to grow since then."

Home-grown Crutchfield has made its fame by offering gobs of info including self-made installation guides, highly informed staffers, and such novel niceties as lifetime technical support.

Beat that, Best Buy!

–with additional reporting by Elizabeth Stanek

45,000 square feet of commerce at Emmet and bypass.


Mount Vernon was mostly gone, and Aunt Sarah's had mere days to live in this May 26 photo.