TRAVERSE CITY — Vic Herman and Amy Reynolds dug in after J.C. Penney pulled out.
It’s been 20 years since the couple relocated Horizon Books to its current location in downtown Traverse City. At the time, the east end of the 200 block of East Front wasn’t the vibrant collection of shops and restaurants that it is now.
Ask anybody who was paying attention at the time and you’ll hear that Horizon’s decision to expand downtown instead of leave for greener pastures had a lot to do with the transformation.
“If there’s anything that started the turnaround for downtown on its way back to what it is today, it is the courage Vic and Amy had to purchase that building,” said Bruce Rogers, longtime downtown Traverse City businessman and leader. “It was huge."
Room to grow
In 1993, Horizon was outgrowing its old location at 224 E. Front, current home of Americana Gallery. Established by Herman in 1961, the business was growing at a fast pace and needed more space.
“There were a lot of (vacant) storefronts, and Penney’s was the big one,” Herman recalled.
It was a gamble, he admits, though not as big as it would have been if they hadn’t bought the building.
“I made a ridiculously low offer on the building and figured it was as good of an investment as anything else, and if it didn’t work out, I would still have the building,” Herman said. “And we were growing so fast.
“The first year we were in the Penney’s building we doubled our sales almost exactly to the year, so it was very successful.”
Community support played no small part in that success, as was evidenced in the very way Horizon moved from its old location to the current one on a Sunday in May 1993. About 120 volunteers who included everyone from community leaders to customers and employees physically carried about 30,000 books in a single day.