EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 7, 2013

Windham company, growing jobs, relocates to Salem

By John Toole

---- — SALEM — A rapidly growing New Hampshire company with surging sales and plans to expand its workforce is relocating to Salem from Windham.

Body Armor Outlet-Granite State Police Supply plans an open house Dec. 13 for its new store at 26 Ermer Road.

“The reason is to get more space for our store and warehouse, and for more employees,” CEO Ray Bellia said.

Bellia, a Salem resident, founded the enterprise as a college student to sell online secondhand police gear in good condition.

He opened his first store in Windham in 2011 and thought it would serve his needs for years to come.

But the company’s sales have tripled to about $3 million in just two years.

“That’s a good problem to have,” Bellia said.

A workforce of 14 is expected to nearly double next year.

Four new hires are expected in the first three to four months of 2014, with another six to eight added before the year is finished.

“That’s our goal for 2014,” Bellia said.

He concedes he never anticipated such growth.

“Our local business has just exploded since we opened the store in Windham,” he said. “We have had huge success in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Never once in my life did I expect this would be happening.”

The new Ermer Road facility is the former location of Lighting 101, now renovated.

The new store has 6,000 square feet of space, 10 times that of the Windham store.

“This was definitely a good move for us,” he said.

Bellia praised Windham officials for working with his company, but said it was more affordable to buy and renovate an existing building.

“Windham was great. We really didn’t want to leave,” he said. “But the cost to build was significantly higher than to buy.”

Windham officials were sorry to see the company leave town.

“Salem is lucky to have them,” said Windham community development director Laura Scott. “They enhanced the property they purchased and were a great community supporter. I understand why they decided to leave Windham and their space in Salem is perfect for their growing operation.”

Salem officials are pleased.

“We’re glad to have them in Salem and glad to have the building reoccupied,” planning director Ross Moldoff said. “It was built for Audrey’s Sew and Vac some time ago, then the lighting store moved in.”

Bellia envisions the company expanding sales to Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

He also is looking to grow his business by looking beyond police departments and security guards to the general public — always welcome as customers, but not previously a focus.

“Your average citizen is becoming more in tune with the tactical market and it’s just a cool factor,” he said.

The company would like to add firearms and ammunition to its inventory.

“We are applying for a license for that; it is something we would like to add,” Bellia said.

He also said the company could in the future look to add an outdoor shooting range.

The open house is scheduled for Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In conjunction with the open house, the company is conducting a toy drive with the Homeland Heroes Foundation to support military families.