RAVENNA — Ed Frost has turned a hobby that he's nurtured since age 18 into a $2 million business during the past 10 years.
Now, he's got his sights set on a major expansion at Ravenna's new industrial park and an aggressive plan to open dozens more stores by year's end.
Frost, owner of All Star Wholesale, said he plans to lease a 50,000-square-foot retail building and a 200,000-square-foot distribution center at the Chestnut Commerce Center. The industrial park at 6800 N. Chestnut St., owned by developer Ray Harner, is at the site of a former General Electric lighting plant and the former Record-Courier press building.
The Ravenna Planning Commission gave preliminary approval to the site's plans Tuesday. City Engineer Bob Finney said the project has a “tight time frame” and aims to open by late November.
Frost said he started what is now All Star Wholesale by buying a truckload of goods and selling them at wholesale prices when he was 18. All Star Wholesale produces about $2 million in sales per month and is on track to reach $40 million in sales this year.
“I pretty much started with one truckload and kept this growing load by load,” he said, adding he started out selling goods in flea markets and garage sales.
Frost said Harner is renovating the former Record-Courier building, updating the electric, plumbing, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers and lighting, as well converting about 3,000 square feet of the 18,000-square-foot facility into office space. Frost has hosted about five auctions there, and he plans to host more.
Frost said the owners have secured parking agreements with surrounding property owners, and are working on more. The plan also calls for construction of a road at the site.
“We want to fill this with auction activities,” Frost said of the old press building. “We’ve pretty much already outgrown this in the space of two months.”
Frost said the distribution center could bring 160 to 200 employees to town, and the retail store could add another 30 to 50 employees. The two new facilities will be named Olivia’s Bargain Outlet and Bailey Distribution Center after his daughters, Olivia, 2, and Bailey, 5.
“I’m going to have 50 of those stores at the end of the year,” Frost said.
Mayor Frank Seman said stores that stay open later on Friday nights benefit from the increased traffic the auctions bring.
“It does draw a crowd, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
Frost said he is hoping to open three more stores soon in and around Portage County — perhaps in Kent, Streetsboro and Newton Falls.
He purchases at wholesale prices directly from a variety of businesses, including Target, Walmart, Bulq, Home Depot, Lowe’s, LG, Samsung, Amazon and more.
The items he sells range from dog food to furniture to a variety of toys. He said he sold a sectional sofa last week for about $320 that normally retails for about $3,200.
“We’ve made our money, and the customers have gotten great deals,” he said of the wholesale operation.
The former press building is loaded with items the businesses will sell, including lots of paper towels and vacuums. He said vacuums costing $200 to $300 can sell for under $100 at the auction.
Assuming the updates to the press building are completed and checked in time by the city, Frost said his next auction will be Feb. 8. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the auction starts at 6 p.m. He said people with questions about the auctions can call him at 234-806-6961.