Sears hopes to open a Hometown Store in Ashland in the near future — and has begun advertising for applicants with the capital, experience and customer service skills to own and operate it, as well as provide the building.

Sears hopes to open a Hometown Store in Ashland in the near future — and has begun advertising for applicants with the capital, experience and customer service skills to own and operate it, as well as provide the building.

A Sears Hometown Store is not a "full-line store," such as the large store in the Medford Center, but offers a range of domestic items — lawn and garden machines, appliances, televisions and other electronic devices, said Charles Todd, a Sears regional economic development manager in Chicago.

Applicants, said Todd, should be entrepreneurs who can own and operate a 7,000- to 10,000-square-foot store in partnership with Sears, which would provide training and inventory, with owners realizing up to 20 percent from sales.

Todd said Sears has checked out Ashland in recent months and found the demographics "very favorable" for a Hometown Store. "It's a very nice community and market," he said, adding that Sears would like to see doors open in about 15 weeks.

Ashland has also been known over the years for a city government and population that has not cozied up to chain or big box stores.

Though he agreed that "Ashland isn't fond of big box stores," City Councilman David Chapman said he didn't see any immediate issues with the Sears idea.

"I don't think any (large retail) chain has tried to come here," Chapman said. "A smaller one would seem fine. We don't have anything to stop them, as long as they meet all the rules."

Todd said he will be in Ashland next week to screen applicants and is looking for people who are "customer-service oriented" but they don't necessarily have to have a great deal of experience, because Sears provides a "very comprehensive" three-week training, most of it in Chicago at its expense.

"We look for very strong customer service skills," said Todd, noting that owners would likely be working the floor and meeting the public.

The owners would have to rent, lease, buy or build the space and it would have to be located in a spot that's "very sensitive to convenient access" to the shopping public, which Todd indicated would tend to be on a commercial "strip" suited to the purpose.

The store would not fall into what's considered a "big box" store category, he noted.

Owners would purchase all fixtures and, if they leased, would be looking at an investment of about $65,000, Todd said.

Half the inventory would be home appliances, about a quarter would be yard and gardening tools, such as lawn mowers, chain saws and weed trimmers and 10 percent would be basic hardware items, said Todd. The remainder would include mattresses, physical fitness equipment and other items.

Sears' advertising for the franchise asks applicants to call Todd at 847-452-7786. More information on Sears Hometown Stores is available at www.searshometownstores.com.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.