Princeton’s business directory expanded Thursday with the grand opening of Burkes Outlet.
Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce members, Burkes staff, and community members celebrated with a ribbon-cutting, immediately followed with a rush of sales.
Walmart is, and has been, the largest retail store in Caldwell County for the past several years.
Burkes offers consumers a second option, dozens of jobs, and tax revenue, officials said, adding two consecutive shutdowns of two retail stores created an opportunity for the Burkes establishment.
The strip mall on U.S. 62, where Burkes moved into, was the site of previous retail store endeavor failures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic economic turmoil.
The pandemic also inadvertently presented recruitment challenges. Numerous employers in Princeton have expressed frustration with the labor force; these claims point to emergency stimulus checks as the culprit, officials said.
Burkes management shared a counter-narrative when explaining the 6-month enterprise project. During recruitment, Burkes’ management did not experience any struggles. They expeditiously secured the staff required for a grand opening — positions are still available, company officials said.
“This is a good addition to our facilities here on this strip. It’s going to bring more business into this section of the district,” Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stephanie Boaz said.
Boaz said perhaps Burkes encountered little to no obstacles acquiring local talent.
Retail and customer service jobs are generally diverse and employ a variety of demographics, exhibiting their utility and versatility. She compared the hour-to-hour work with manual labor and trade-skilled work found in farming or factory environments.
“I think everybody’s just getting back into the groove of things,” Boaz said. “Being able to get out and socialize is getting back to a little bit of normalcy.”
Leslie Rushing, a supervisor for Burkes, said she didn’t hesitate when she saw the opening for the job. She’s a long-time Princeton resident.
“I thought that would be a wonderful opportunity, to start fresh in a brand-new store,” Rushing said. “I’m glad that I did.”
Rushing said she found hardship while she was actively seeking employment.
“I have been at several different places in town, but that doesn’t bother me. I like to meet new people,” Rushing said.
Rushing announced Burkes is partnering with the Family Resource and Youth Services Center at Caldwell County Schools for back-to-school initiatives.
Not only is Rushing grateful and excited about her new position, but she is also looking forward to offering an alternative. She said returning to the same store can become monotonous.
“I love it when new businesses open up in Princeton,” Rushing said.