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HILLSVILLE — Former model homes have a new lease on life and will contribute to the flow of commerce around Interstate 77’s Exit 14.
Businessman Jim Dixon has set up an office of Blue Ridge Mountain Home Center in the former AmerLink log home sales center after winning the remainder of the 99-year lease at a January bankruptcy auction.
Dixon has renamed the three homes “the log mall” while restoring the exterior and catching up on the long-delayed maintenance from the time when AmerLink finally collapsed due to its financial troubles.
The now-defunct log home company promised to create around 200 jobs and built the models and half a sawmill before going bankrupt in a failed economic development deal with Carroll County.
With already healthy retail sales at the Southwest Virginia Farmers Market and at the newer Market Village shops, Dixon expects renting out the 10,000 square feet in the log mall will boost business and traffic at the facility to even higher levels.
He would consider one renter for all three facilities, or he could split the rental spaces to accommodate smaller clients.
The newly polished interiors would make a great home for a coffee shop, Dixon believes. He could also foresee the facility being used for a restaurant, professional offices, retail and craft shops or some combination of those.
If there was only one gas station at the Interstate 77-U.S. 58 interchange, a lot fewer of I-77’s 60,000 vehicles per day would pull off at Exit 14, he said. But the Hillsville exit has a variety of restaurants, motels and shops, plus the activity at the Carroll County Industrial Park.
Adding more businesses to that mix will improve the business climate, Dixon expects.
“There’s lots of potential to continue to increase business, so I think this will do good,” he said of the "log mall."
Even with just the Blue Ridge Mountain Home Center office on his property, Dixon sees walk-in customers regularly.
The staff can help them with manufactured and modular home sales, hauling and setting, grading work, buying and selling homes and financing, he said. More and more people are asking about prices for log home kits.
One of the goals for finding a new leaseholder was to create jobs in the facility, Dixon said. Blue Ridge Mountain Home Center plans to add one more to their staff of around 12 employees.
“We’re going to hire one to take care of meeting and greeting people and to give them information,” he said. “Everyday there’s people coming in looking. We got several people we’re working with and sending information."
AmerLink only had two or three employees working part-time when it was open. “We should outdo them in no time,” Dixon said.
As for the other model homes with around 1,400 and 1,600 square feet, Dixon plans to finish them out inside when he finds renters.
He admits some surprise these spaces haven’t been rented out yet, but finds that typical of the slow economy.
• The company website is blueridgemountainhomecenter.com and the phone number is (276) 728-4499. More information about the rental spaces is available by phone.