Space for competition: Double K to renovate, add space for Jimmy John’sPublished 10:49am Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Kyle Klaehn believes Austin needs more business competition. So the owner of Double K Specialty Inc. is excited his building will undergo big changes and welcome three new businesses, including Jimmy John’s.
Klaehn said the building, at 803 18th Ave. NW, will be completely renovated, with Jimmy John’s and the two other unknown businesses on the north side of the structure, and Double K and the Veterinary Medical Hospital facing south toward Culver’s.
“You will not recognize this building in six months,” said Klaehn, adding construction could start in a few weeks and possibly last four to six months. “It will be a huge improvement.”
In the process, he said he will change his business model and focus on his biggest sellers like Red Wing boots, pet grooming and pet supplies, including large animal feed. He said the boots section will have its own entrance and name, and increase in size by about 40 percent, the pet grooming space will increase by 40 percent, and the pet supplies area will increase substantially. But he will scale back farm supplies and mostly stop selling clothing. He also will eliminate his drive-through, and he already no longer sells Carhartt clothing.
While he will lose 90 percent of his warehouse space to the three new businesses — Double K will take up 5,600-square feet of the 11,500-square foot building after the remodel, and his warehouse will go from 4,500-square feet to about 400 — he sees that as a good thing.
“One of the more sizable purposes behind wanting to do this is hoping we are part of something that helps jump-start needed change for Austin retail,” he said.
Klaehn said Austin has a great base of employment and draws a lot of rural customers. “But we lack some business and goods other communities have that consumers want,” he said.
Austin is getting about 35 percent less retail sales than it should, according to a 2009 report by the University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Community Vitality. He and other business owners want to keep that business here. Albert Lea, Owatonna and Winona, on the other hand, are getting roughly what they should based on population.
“We can’t fill the entire void, but we hope to help potentially create activity so other companies view Austin as attractive,” he said.
Klaehn said if Austin has enough to offer, people won’t shop in Rochester or the Twin Cities.
“Austin is an island between Rochester, Owatonna, Mason City and Albert Lea,” he said.
Klaehn even views a move to town by Runnings, which some view as direct competition to Double K, as a good thing. The home improvement store bought the former Kmart building, but has yet to make an announcement on whether its coming to Austin.
“If and when Runnings decides to come to town, I view that as a good thing,” he said. “[Runnings] has the potential of filling some of the more sizable holes we have in products that aren’t available.”