He went to work for Dennis Hodges Office Supply in October of 1960 and stayed there for eight years. He moved over to Daniels’s Office Supply for four years after that.
“I sort of made plans at that point to go into business for myself,” Christie said.
He opened his own business the first week of August in 1972. Originally, the business was located in a smallish, 3,000-square-foot space on East First Street. He was located at the back door to the old Kessler’s in what later became Shannon’s nightclub.
“I was there for six years. I had a three-year lease with an option for another three years, which I did,” Christie said.
The business was growing, so in 1978 he went to the folks at Hardy Realty to help find a larger space.
That larger space was the building at 100 Broad St. where he remains today. He leased that property for the first nine years and then bought it outright in 1987.
Christie said he knows that the two-story building which houses his store has been around since the 1870s when it was the Rome Hotel. Not too many years ago the building had a bowling alley on the second floor.
Christie’s carries a full line of office furniture and office supplies, along with hardware like cash registers, fax machines and copy machines. He’s seen a lot of product changes throughout the years. Christie said computerization has been the biggest change in his industry during the last three and a half decades.
“It’s created a whole different set of office supplies, and we’ve got pretty much all of them,” Christie said. “We can sell just about anything.”
The fact that Christie has remained in business all these years is a testament to customer service and an extremely loyal customer base. Office Depot has come and gone; Staples is still around; and of course Walmart and Kmart have provided stiff competition.
“We go the extra mile on service,” Christie said.
In fact, Christie’s still offers free delivery services.
“Being competitive on pricing, being here for people when they need us,” Christie said have been keys to his success.
The economy, however, has had an impact.
“I think we started feeling it about 2007, and it hasn’t gotten much better I don’t think,” Christie said.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years of businesses moving to a paperless office.
“It hasn’t affected us any yet. I think we sell as much paper as we ever did,” Christie said. “I don’t think that we’ll ever get to the point where we are paperless.”
Seven employees, most of whom have been with Christie for a long time, man the two-story office supply store. Avanelle Denmon has worked for Christie’s for 35 years; Ricky Brooks has been with the store for 32 years; and Evelyn Kerce has been with the company for 31 years. Christie’s son Doug Christie has worked for his dad, off and on, for 32 years, while Greg Turner has been with the office supply business for 28 years.
Building for sale
In June of 2011 Christie put the building he’s been in for the past 34 years on the market.
“We just really don’t need this large building anymore,” Christie said a year ago.
The building has 10,000 square feet downstairs and 10,000 square feet upstairs.
“We’re not using upstairs. We used to have merchandise stored up there, but we just don’t have as much merchandise as we used to,” he said.
Local real estate representatives have touted the historic nature of the building, its prime location and plenty of parking both in front and at the rear of the building, but in today’s economy, it still has not attracted the right buyer.
Christie made it very clear last year that while the building was for sale, the business was not.
“Sometime it’s better to change and do something different. I can save a lot on utilities, and I can probably rent or buy a building half the size for half the money,” Christie said.
Downtown Development Director Ann Arnold was allowed to use the building as a case study for downtown redevelopment during a recent training session in Rome. One group suggested that a possible use of the building would be for a juice bar and health club, while a second group suggested that the building would be a good fit for a downtown grocery store.
“I preferred the grocery store recommendation,” Arnold said. “I think that downtown really does need that for the residents that already live here and future residents that we want to get to move to downtown. There are some great advantages to that location.”
Even Christie thinks the building might work well as a grocery store.
“That would be a good thing for them to do. I think a grocery store would work here,” Christie said. “It’s not something I would want to do.”
Office supplies are strictly what Christie does, and he will throw a celebration of his 40 years in business during the month of August. Details about that celebration are still being ironed out.
Christie’s is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Orders can be placed by phone at 706-291-4550. The company website is www.christiesofficesupply.com.