There was a point yesterday morning when the most visible sign of metro Toledo s struggling economy stretched more than 600 feet through a parking lot in Rossford.
Hundreds of people many unemployed for months began lining up before dawn yesterday as outdoor retailer Bass Pro Shops began hiring 250 to 300 employees for its 150,000-square-foot store under construction in Rossford.
So many people showed up to stand in line that the Bass Pro store s general manager, David Harre, opened the doors of Gold Medal Indoor Sports about 20 minutes early to keep the line from interfering with traffic.
We started this morning as soon as we could, he said. It s exciting. You can just feel the energy.
One of the first to arrive was Donna Jackson, who drove from her home in Waterville to apply for a position in shipping and receiving. She said she s been out of work for about three months after she was laid off by her previous employer, an automotive supplier.
I got here about 6:30 [a.m.], and there was a good-sized line, she said. And even though she was just one of what likely will be several thousand applicants over the job fair s three-day run, Ms. Jackson had one quality Mr. Harre said Bass Pro is looking for: a love of the outdoors.
I m an outdoors woman. I love to hunt and fish and camp, she said. I m so excited that Bass Pro is coming here, even if I don t get hired.
Like its direct competitor Cabela s, which opened a store in 2000 in nearby Dundee, Mich., that is considered one of Michigan s top tourist destinations, Bass Pro Shops become retail destinations that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to the area.
Unlike many other applicants, Howard Routson of Genoa wasn t looking at Bass Pro as a main source of income. He stood in line for more than an hour in hopes of landing a part-time job in the store s fishing department.
I m retired, Mr. Routson explained. I m just looking for something part-time to get me out of the house, and I thought this would be a fun place to work.
Mr. Harre said all of the jobs being filled during the three-day job fair ranged from above minimum wage to well below $20 an hour, although he refused to disclose the actual salary range. Still, he said he and his management team were prepared for the onslaught of applicants in part after they saw similar numbers of people apply for work recently for two Menards stores.
It s good to be in a position to be able to provide jobs. They re very much needed, the store s general manager said. An earlier effort online to hire the 15 members of the store s management team generated 1,700 applications, he said.
Jack Gross of Perrysburg spent much of his morning in line in hopes of landing a job in the store s loss prevention department, one of the highest-paying positions. The former head of security at the former Riverside Hospital in Toledo, Mr. Gross said the job fair couldn t have come at a better time.
I just lost my job last month as an assistant produce manager at an area grocery store, Mr. Gross said. I m just trying to get back on the horse.
To win the job, Mr. Gross will have to compete against Maurice McKitrick, who also applied for a job in loss prevention. He said he hasn t been able to establish a career since graduating from college in 2005.
It s been a very rough job market. I m unemployed right now, and this looks like a good place to work, he said.
Bass Pro will continue to accept applications from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and tomorrow at Gold Medal Indoor Sports, 10020 South Compass Drive, in Rossford.
Mr. Harre said applicants can expect to be called as early as next week for follow-up interviews, and could start work by the first or second week of May.
The store, which is under construction, is expected to open in the middle of June, though no exact date has been announced.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.