ITHACA, N.Y. — Change is inevitable, even for a 97-year-old business. At least, that’s how Thomas Pirko views it. His family’s business, Bishop’s Carpet One, will be moving from its store at 430 West State Street to the vacant retail space formerly occupied by the Aaron’s rental store chain at 363 Elmira Road.

“West State Street has been a great location for us for many years, but most of the home remodeling retail stores have been growing on the Elmira road corridor,” said Pirko. “With this new location, we will have much easier parking for our customers, we will be easier to find, and will be on many of our customers drive to and from work.”

Bishop’s has been a staple of the State Street corridor for decades. Opening in 1923 as a paint shop, it was purchased by the Goldberg family and converted into a hardware store, merging with the Carpet One co-op in 1993. Pirko’s father David has had a hand in Bishop’s operations since 1966, and became owner of the stores in 2003. The hardware store went out of business in 2007, its closure attributed to big-box newcomers Home Depot and Lowe’s. But the flooring side has continued to do healthy business.

“Flooring is a very roller coaster type industry. In 2018 we had our biggest year in about a decade. We hope that this new location will be a spark to help us grow,” said Pirko.

Pirko says that the new location will still host all the same services and goods – all types of flooring including carpets, hardwoods and tile, window coverings, and window blind repair. In the era of the “retail apocalypse,” Bishop’s has survived by offering personalized service and products that people are more inclined to check out in person and pay the extra money to have installed professionally.

That said, Pirko noted that the growth of online retail has caused a shift in some of Bishop’s offerings. “We used to stock and sell designer area rugs. With the larger online retail stores selling area rugs the way they do, we had to make a business decision to no longer stock area rugs. We still sell them and have thousands to choose from, but you are ordering from a catalog or website in-store now. The benefit to the customer with this process is that they still have someone local to work with and make sure the rug is right for them.”

Tompkins County deed filings indicate that the Pirkos are paying $704,224 for the retail space at 363 Elmira, buying it outright instead of renting. Previously owned by the Lama family of landlords/developers, the renovated 1960s building hosts a little less than 6,000 square feet of retail space.

“It’s hard to explain everything that will change, but I think our customers will love the changes, and in the long run it will make us much more competitive. An example of this is you will see a shift in our store hours, to be more open for customers in the evenings,” said Pirko.

The move to Elmira Road comes as Arnot Realty purchased the Bishop’s complex for $2.075 million last month. The Pirkos sold the complex to the Morelands in 2008, who in turn sold it to Arnot Realty this past December. Arnot representative Ian Hunter stated at the time of sale that Arnot has no immediate plans for the property and is still looking at future options, so the move for Bishop’s is more proactive than reactive. In the meantime, 413 West State Street will continue to be used as storage, though that relationship is only short-term given that 413 West State is currently up for sale.

Consolidating both the warehouse and retail space into one building will involve some downsizing, though Pirko noted that a big benefit of the site they’re moving to is the potential for expansion if business growth supports it. For now, Bishop’s is holding a big sale in preparation for the move.

“I think right now that 97 years of ‘stuff’ has built up, and we are very comfortable in the fact that bigger is not always better. We will fit into this space nicely. We will have some growing pains along the way as we adjust, but this new layout is going to be much easier to shop for our customers,” said Pirko.

The new Elmira Road location will likely have a soft opening in March, with a grand opening to follow later in the spring.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.