Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

TOP STORY>> Empty store gets tenants

IN SHORT: Tractor Supply Company to share abandoned Wal-Mart site in Sherwood with Gander Mountain, a major outdoor retailer.

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Gander Mountain, a major outdoor retailer, has already begun remodeling about two-thirds of the vacant Sherwood Wal-Mart building, and Tractor Supply Company (TSC) will move across Hwy. 67/167 into the other 30,000 square feet of the building, Mayor Bill Harmon reported to the city council Monday night.

Remodeling for Gander Mountain should be complete by May, according to Matt Smith, job superintendent for Bell-Corley Construction in Little Rock.

Harmon said the larger TSC and the new sporting good store would reverse the fortunes of the center at Five-Mile Creek, where the old Wal-Mart, Best Buy Store and Furniture Row buildings now stand empty.

Susan Morganstern, a spokes-man for TSC, said Tuesday afternoon, “We do not have a signed lease. The way we normally operate, we don’t talk about it until after a signed lease.”

TSC has not yet applied for a building permit, according to the Sherwood city engineer’s office, but Harmon seemed certain the move was a done deal.

TSC, which sells farm equipment, in-cluding tractor implements, animal feed, working outdoor wear, wood-burning stoves, hardware and animal fencing, had been looking for a larger space, according spokesperson Morgenstern.
“We will open about 60 stores and relocate another 20 this year,” she said.

TSC has 7,600 employees at 515 stores in 32 states. Last year, it had $1.7 billion in revenues.

During his state of the city report, the mayor said sales tax revenues were good last year and credited virtually all city departments with coming in under budget, but the town has been concerned that loss of tax revenues from all three big box retailers at the center would hurt.

Now, he says, he’s optimistic. He said there is interest in both the Best Buy site and Furniture Row, which joined Wal-Mart by moving to McCain Mall locations in North Little Rock.

For Gander Mountain a new store would typically mean 60 jobs, according to information on the website.

Bahl said Arkansas was a logical place for the West Bloomington, Minn.-based outdoors store to operate, since the state is known for its waterfowl hunting and great fishing on its rivers.

Gander Mountain has about 6,000 employees and about 90 stores open or opening in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In addition to hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, some stores now sell all-terrain vehicles. The chain hosts seminars and has on-site gunsmiths. Free “how-to” seminars have been held on topics such as global positioning systems, dog training basics, firearm safety, outdoor cooking and fly tying.

Bahl could not be reached Tuesday for further comment.

The company plans to expand its assortment in the marine and boating categories, and is now offering hunting and fishing vacation packages in the U.S. and Canada.