City receives big dose of good news
Just about two months after the community of Blue Earth received the bad news that the Walmart store in town was going to close its doors for good, there was some good news.
Bomgaars Supply, a farm and ranch store chain based in Sioux City, Iowa, announced it had reached an agreement to lease the former Walmart building and would be opening their 83rd store here in May of 2018.
“We actually first heard from Bomgaars about two weeks after Walmart closed,” says Blue Earth mayor Rick Scholtes. “But, it was a quite a while after that the decision to come here was announced.”
Scholtes says the city was very concerned about the impact of Walmart’s closing would have on the community.
“We saw some folks saying the City Council ‘made’ Walmart leave,” Scholtes says. “That is not true. As soon as they made the announcement (city administrator) Tim Ibisch and I were on the phone to their headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to see what we could do to get them to stay.”
The answer was, the decision had been made and was not going to be reversed. Then Ibisch started making calls.
“I started contacting businesses we thought might be interested in this building in this location,” Ibisch says. “Places like ShopKo, Runnings, Big Lots and others.”
Bomgaars was on the list but before Ibisch could call them, they called him.
“We had gotten a call from a representative of the person who owned the building in Blue Earth,” says Torrey Wingert, Bomgaars vice president and CFO. “That person also owns the building in Albert Lea that we started leasing for our store there in 2016. He was contacting us to see if we had any interest in the one in Blue Earth.”
After the executive team checked it out, they decided the building and the location of the city of Blue Earth would be good opportunity for their business.
“We don’t often get the opportunity to go into a facility of that size,” Wingert says. “We were super impressed with the building and the location. We will not have to do a lot to the building.”
Bomgaars has often taken over in a space where another business has closed down. They recently moved their store in Carroll, Iowa into a closed Kmart building. They have moved into empty Kmart sites in Yankton, South Dakota, Cody, Wyoming, and in Waseca, Minnesota.
Wingert says the Bomgaars store in Blue Earth will not replace Walmart.
“We won’t fill every need that people need without Walmart,” he says. “We don’t have groceries and things they had. But, on the other hand, we are more than a farm ag store.”
Wingert says Bomgaars has dozens of major departments, including some clothing, tools, toys, automotive, sporting goods, pet supplies, electrical, plumbing, hardware and a lot more.
They will also have a lot of seasonal items they bring in, and that includes spring farm, lawn and garden items including a nursery.
“We will be different from Walmart,” he adds. “But maybe different in a good way in some cases.”
Bomgaars is a fourth generation company, privately owned by Roger and Jane Bomgaars. It originated in 1952.
They have 82 stores currently in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. The company employs approximately 2,100 employees.
The store in Blue Earth is expected to employ 20-25 people. The new store manager will be Mike Dehrkoop, coming to Blue Earth from the store in Forest City, Iowa.
Walmart has the lease on the building in Blue Earth through January of 2018. There will be a hiring fair held sometime in February, with the store scheduled to open in early May, although it could possibly be ready by late April.
There will be an official grand opening celebration sometime in mid-May.
Mayor Scholtes calls this whole situation really good news.
“That building will be empty for just five or six months,” Scholtes says. “It is good news that it is being filled relatively quickly. And Bomgaars has a very good reputation and they have been around for a long time.”
Everyone was very concerned when Walmart closed down and what it would mean to the community, Scholtes says.
“We think having Bomgaars here will again bring a lot of people to Blue Earth,” he explains. “They will draw folks from around the area.”