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New Store to Occupy Vacant Lowe’s Building in Claremont

Claremont — Runnings, a chain of general merchandise stores headquartered in Minnesota, expects to bring 60 full- and part-time jobs to the city next spring when it opens a store at the former Lowe’s location on Washington Street.

Dennis Jensen, director of marketing for Runnings, confirmed Monday that the 67-year-old privately owned company that has 32 stores in four Midwestern states purchased the 102,000-square-foot Lowe’s building, which has been vacant for nearly three years.

Jensen said Monday that a combination of factors, including available space in a building that is essentially new, contributed to Runnings’ decision to open its first New England store in Claremont.

“We are always evaluating opportunities to competitively deliver our products,” he said. “We promote a rural, outdoor lifestyle, and we see a connection between our products and consumers in the area.”

Three Runnings stores are planned to open in New York this fall in towns with populations ranging from 11,000 to 33,000. Claremont’s population is about 13,000.

City Manager Guy Santagate and Planning and Development Director Nancy Merrill both said the city is delighted to see the Lowe’s building filled.

“They have products that fit the area,” Santagate said. “We have high hopes for this. I think it is another sign that we are out of the recession because people are more willing to invest in Claremont. This is a big one for us.”

The Lowe’s store, located about a quarter mile from its main competitor, Home Depot, opened in May 2010 after spending multiple years and millions of dollars cleaning up contamination on the property. Lowe’s closed the store in November 2011, citing a weak economy that did not recover as expected from the recession.

The property was marketed by a commercial broker, and while city officials were aware of Runnings’ interest, they were not involved in the sale negotiations. About nine months ago, Merrill’s office provided the company with information on Claremont and the surrounding area.

“In this case, we were here when needed,” said Merrill. “Everything I am hearing is that this is a good store for our area. They should do well here. It is a very attractive building.”

According to a filing at the county Registry of Deeds Office, Runnings bought three other abutting parcels in addition to the store parcel, which is on 17 acres. The total assessed value of the 20 acres with buildings is in excess of $8 million, and Runnings paid $3.3 million. The sale of the property was finalized on Aug. 11.

About a month ago, Runnings’ president met with city officials and Santagate said they promoted Claremont’s advantages, including the absence of a sales tax that attracts Vermont shoppers and the city’s infrastructure improvements the last several years.

He said it not only fills a vacant building and adds jobs but will bring more shoppers to the city.

“This will translate into more business for others on Washington Street,” Santagate said.

According to the company’s web site, Runnings carries a full line of products including automotive, gardening, tools, pet supplies, toys, sporting goods, clothing and power equipment.

“People may wonder how we can fill a store of that size, and I say, ‘we fill it very nicely,’ ” Jensen said. “To say we are just a farm store is not true. We have much more. We are giving them everything for the home, farm and outdoors.”

The company was started in 1947 by Norman “Red” Runnings and is today owned by Dennis and Adele Reed.

The expected opening is next April.

“We are excited about coming to the area,” Jensen said.

Runnings has stores in Minnesota (15), South Dakota (12), North Dakota (5) and Montana (2). It is based in Marshall, Minn.