Route 44 in Raynham

Charles Winokoor | Taunton Business Gazette

RAYNHAM — There is no shortage of shopping plazas along Route 44. So when Dianne Lawrence went looking for a spot to open a new home decoration business she knew she had choices.

What she found herself attracted to was what some had previously considered something of an ugly duckling: the strip mall behind the Raynham Mandarin.

Two weeks ago Home Decor & More opened at 283 New State Highway, in a building that once rented space to an adult video and book store.

Since the building was purchased in May of 2002 by Brockton-based Juliano Enterprises, however, it has been undergoing a gradual rebirth.

The video and book stores are gone, plans for major sign improvements are in the works and Rockland Trust is currently building a new bank branch in the parking lot’s center area.

“We looked at a few spots,” said Lawrence, who manages Home Decor & More for owner Gerry Giorgio. “We liked the easy access off the highways.”

The plaza will formally be known as Raynham Center.

She said she was impressed with what she calls the level of “pull in traffic” — drivers from outside the Raynham/Taunton region who look for a number of businesses on one single stretch of road.

Another asset, she said, goes to the plaza’s most visible tenant: “A lot of people seem to know about the Chinese buffet.”

The restaurant, she pointed out, recently put up a new sign.

It also doesn’t hurt that she can tell people the store sits across the street from Shaw’s, one of Route 44’s major shopping landmarks.

In addition to the businesses in the plaza building itself, there is a self-storage company called Stor-Safe, situated to its side and rear.

She said Home Decor & More signed a five-year lease.

Lawrence is a New Bedford native who for the past 16 years has worked as an interior designer. She said the idea of running a store that offers an eclectic selection of design choices, at various price points, is a concept she has long been interested in pursuing.

Home Decor & More carries flooring, wall coverings, paint, windoware and a number of home accents. One of her goals, said Lawrence, is for the store to eventually be recognized for having the largest inventory and selection of paper and border wallcoverings in the area.

“We’re larger now than your average box store,” she said.

Other tenants in the modestly sized building include Sun Daze Tanning salon and New Life Weight Loss & Fitness Center. There is currently one vacancy.

Lawrence said she also appreciates the fact she isn’t the only woman on the block. Having other female business owners in a single building, she said, makes for potential synergy.

“We’re a decorative business, and that goes well with other ladies’ businesses,” she said, adding that “We’re feeding off each other very nicely.”

Amy Santoro, owner of New Life Weight Loss& Fitness Center, said the addition of Lawrence’s store was pivotal in terms of her future plans.

“We wouldn’t have stayed here if they hadn’t moved in,” said Santoro.

She relocated the business from Dean Street to the plaza three years ago, and said the efforts of the new owners have spurred her to make her own significant reinvestment.

Santoro said there have always been treadmill and bike machines on the premises. But now she is adding “circuit” equipment — low-impact exercise machines, the kind used by Curves for Women, the well known, national health club chain.

The membership center is unusual, she said, because of the dual nature of its services. In addition to offering circuit exercise to men and women, there are weight loss programs which include special meal plans, with two trained nutritionists on staff.

Santoro said she hopes Home Decor & More and New Life can coordinate future sales promotions (Home Decor is staging a major membership promotion March 20).

“Women like to lose weight and decorate their house,” she said.

Mike Juliano, president of Juliano Enterprises, said the Rockland Trust branch will be operational by summer and that he will resurface the parking lot before then.

Juliano bought the property, he said, because “I thought it was a great redevelopment opportunity.”

He also said there are plans to double the size of the self-storage unit company.

©The Taunton Gazette 2004

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