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Scheels plans move to Columbia Mall

Passing shoppers offered curious glances as they walked by a press conference in progress inside the Scheels store in Grand Forks this evening. Company president Steve M. Scheel stood at a podium in front of a backdrop adorned with Scheels logos ...

Scheels logo

Passing shoppers offered curious glances as they walked by a press conference in progress inside the Scheels store in Grand Forks this evening.

Company president Steve M. Scheel stood at a podium in front of a backdrop adorned with Scheels logos and told a group of assembled members of the media a few feet from the store's checkout lanes about the company's plans to open a bigger, better store in Grand Forks.

Scheels plans to open a 120,000-square-foot store in the former Target space at Columbia Mall in the fall of 2014. The current store in Grand Forks will close at about the same time. The opening of the new location in Grand Forks coincides with the expiration of the current store's lease in a strip mall across South Columbia Road from Altru Health System.

The new location will put Scheels right in the middle of the city's hottest retail corridor. It also figures to give the mall a major shot in the arm by filling an anchor spot that has been vacant for the last decade.

"The 32nd Avenue corridor seems to be the booming retail corridor in Grand Forks," Scheel said. "We love being part of a strong retail development whatever market we're in. The more retailers you have around, the more people you have in the area and that's good for everybody." The addition of Scheels to the mall ends a long search for a new anchor tenant for the mall since Target moved out and opened a SuperTarget farther west on the south side of 32nd Avenue.


"It is a very large space, Hal Gershman, president of the Grand Forks City Council and owner of the Happy Harry's Bottle Shops chain, said of the former Target space. "Leasing large spaces is very difficult and you need to find the right tenant. They certainly found the right one."

More bells, whistles

At about 120,000 square feet, the new store will be more than three times the size of the current Grand Forks store that was the first all-sports store in the Scheels chain when it opened in 1989. The exterior walls of the former Target space will be refinished, while the interior space will be completely remodeled.

The new store will employ more than 200 workers, which is more than double the current store's staff of 92 employees.

Scheel said the new store will be much bigger, with broader product lines and will be much more interactive for shoppers.

"It will be a much more family-friendly environment, he said. "When you walk down some of the aisles in these older, smaller stores, they're tight. It's hard to get a shopping cart through. Our goal is for the new store to be wide open, spacious and enjoyable to shop for mom, dad, the kids and everybody. There's something for everyone.

"In the new stores we take that to another level by adding that entertainment value. If I'm done shopping and I'm waiting for my wife, I'm not just standing there waiting. I can go shoot the simulator. It becomes more of a fun activity. People stay in the building longer." Simulators will be added for sports and shooting, along with an archery range and expanded fishing and bicycling offerings. The new store may even include a small cafe and deli.

One thing it won't have, Scheel said, is a ferris wheel like the one at the Fargo store.


"It's not tall enough, he said. It would have to be like a two-seater." While the Fargo store is two levels and measures nearly 200,000 square feet, the one-level Grand Forks store will be similar in many ways, absent a large focal entertainment piece like Fargo's ferris wheel. It will have many of the same sports and shooting simulators and is expected to have a smaller version of the deli at the Fargo location.

Fargo-based Scheels operates 23 sporting goods stores in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Nevada and Utah.

Filling mall vacancy

The former Target space at Columbia Mall has sat vacant for the past decade since the new SuperTarget opened in 2001 on 32nd Avenue South.

Bill Reid, the mall's general manager, said Scheels taking over an anchor spot will serve as a catalyst for future growth at the mall.

Reid said the mall has experienced "renewed interest on the part of retailers who have heard rumors of a pending agreement between the mall and Scheels.

"It's a great location, said Kevin Ritterman, president of Grand Forks-based Dakota Commercial and Development. "32nd is the corridor to be on. For that size of a building, there isn't much land available right on 32nd. That kind of retail use would for sure work at the mall. It's probably the missing piece that the mall needs. It might be able to bring some life back to that mall. Malachy Kavanagh, a spokesperson with the International Council of Shopping Centers, said malls have had a difficult time in recent years filling vacant anchor spaces, especially in light of recent department store consolidation and a slumping economy.

"It's difficult to fill vacant anchor store spaces, Kavanagh said. Some of the options are to try to cut it up and have a number of smaller shops or take it down and add exterior stores, like restaurants, that like to be outside the mall. When you have a big box, you typically look for other big boxes to fill it." Barrington, Ill.-based real estate development company GK Development, which owns the mall, has been actively seeking new uses for the space in recent years since acquiring it from Target.


About five years ago plans for a new movie theater at the site were announced, but the project never came to fruition. Three years ago GK Development also began searching for potential tenants for the space as part of a potential concept that would have redeveloped it into a combination of smaller specialty shops and restaurants. But the redevelopment project never materialized, leaving those in the community to continue speculating about what might become of the high-profile space.

Reid said previous plans for the space "involved potentially a hotel and everything else." "The market has changed dramatically, he said. "Hotel rooms have been addressed. What we are interested in is filling in a key location at the mall. The synergy will then start to take place."

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