Another large retailer in Austin?Published 10:05am Tuesday, July 24, 2012
The empty Kmart building left behind when it closed in May 2010 may soon be opening its doors again. Family-owned, Sioux City-based home improvement retailer Bomgaars has been looking at moving to Austin for several months, and the company has its sights set on that facility.
Craig Hoium, the city’s community development director, confirmed Monday that Bomgaars is interested. He said it would likely employ 25 to 30 people.
The Bomgaars website lists 60 retail stores, with locations in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming. The corporation employs about 1,400 people.
Hoium said there is a need in the community for a store like Bomgaars, which sells agricultural, automotive and hardware supplies, along with clothing, footwear and toys.
“It’s similar to a downsized [Mills] Fleet Farm store,” Hoium said.
Torrey Wingert, vice president and chief financial officer at Bomgaars, said nothing was signed at this point, though Bomgaars could put a store in fairly quickly if it got the green light.
“We look at new markets fairly regularly,” he said. “We’ve been looking at Austin for some time.”
While some aspects of the project have been finalized, it’s not set in stone yet that Bomgaars will come to Austin. The company’s negotiations for the site have been taking place during the last three or four months, Hoium said.
Bomgaars would like to buy or lease the building, Hoium said, though there’s a gap between the buyer’s and seller’s target price. The Austin Port Authority is now considering a request from the retailer for possible monetary assistance, which may take the form of a $150,000 loan. If approved, a development agreement between the Port Authority and Bomgaars would lay out the terms of the loan, including the possibility of partial or total loan forgiveness in response to the company creating jobs in the area.
If all goes according to plan, remodeling would start Sept. 1 and the store would be open for business in October.
The Austin Kmart, which occupied a 90,000-square-foot building at 1400 18th Ave. NW behind Applebee’s, had about 70 employees when it closed. The facility has been empty since May 2010 except for the west side, where JNP Motorsports opened in April.
Hoium said Bomgaars would not push JNP out of the building, but would take up the rest of the space. JNP uses 6,000 square feet, according to its owner, Jeremy Harmer, who added that having a home improvement store next door would be helpful to his business.
“It would attract more people back in this area,” he said. “With the rest of the building empty, a lot of people still don’t know we’re back here.”