Kelly Fantacci drove for three hours, then waited seven hours more for a three-second meeting with NASCAR star Kevin Harvick.
Fantacci, of Connecticut, departed her home at midnight Wednesday, arrived at the brand-new Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Horsham at 3 a.m. and parked her chair in front of the store to wait for the ticket giveaway at 7:30 a.m. Then, she waited until just after 10 a.m. for a meeting of sorts with Harvick, in which she photographed him autographing her model car.
Would she do it again?
“Absolutely,” Fantacci said. “We’ve met him twice before and both times were great.”
Fantacci was one of 250 early birds who arrived at the new 32,000-square-foot Village Mall store for its grand opening – and to meet the 18-time-winning Harvick, who is in his 12th season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Since Ollie’s is a discount department store – and not a NASCAR fan store, some may be confused by the correlation.
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet President and CEO Mark Butler likens the chain store, which operates 124 bargain outlets in 13 states, to NASCAR.
“You never know what’s happening on the track and you never know what’s happening at Ollie’s,” said Butler, referring to varying items available depending on closeouts, seconds and overstock. “I think our business is a lot like NASCAR.”
Coopersburg resident Mark Keeler, dressed in Harvick gear from head to toe, showed off his new Harvick model car, a purchase he made at Ollie’s prior to meeting his “racing hero.” Keeler rattles off the date he became a hardcore Harvick fan as easily as if it was his own birthday – because both fall on the same day: Aug. 3, 2003. On that date Harvick won the Brickyard 400, Keeler proudly announced.
Butler said the chain’s motto of “good stuff cheap” speaks to the same demographic as NASCAR.
“Americans always loved a bargain, now they need a bargain,” he said.
The promise of great buys is what brought Horsham resident Renee Ridout to the store on Wednesday.
“It’s interesting,” Ridout said, while perusing home goods. “I didn’t know what to expect from it. I sort of look at it as a Marshall’s.”
A regular Village Mall shopper, Ridout said she shops at the Dollar Tree next door, used to frequent the former Walmart – now a Speed Raceway – and bought her dog from the pet store, which had preceded the Ollie’s store.
Ollie’s, which had been previously vacant following the closure of the pet store, now employs 50 hourly associates, as well as three full-time leaders, according to store representative Scott Osbourne.
Warrington resident Sharon Adams said it was great to see new life come to Village Mall.
“It’s been on and off,” Adams said. “Nothing’s really settled in.”