LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk
Discount tool retailer has plans for local store; signs of new life at former Hobby Lobby site; a Missouri billionaire stakes a Lawrence claim
Either I love tools or just break a lot of things because I always carry in my front pocket a Leatherman multitool that ensures I have at least 10 tools with me at all times. If you too are that type of a person, you might be interested to know that Harbor Freight is now saying it will open a store in Lawrence. The rest of you probably are wondering what is Harbor Freight, and why do I insist upon showing you my tiny pocket scissors?
Harbor Freight is a discount tool retailer with about 850 stores across the country. It has stores in Topeka and the Kansas City metro, but it now is advertising online for people to work in a soon-to-open Lawrence store.
“Harbor Freight Tools is coming to Lawrence, KS! Now hiring for a store manager and assistant store managers,” the job listing on indeed.com reads.
Beyond that, I don’t have a lot of information, so take this for what you think it is worth. I have a message into the corporate office of Harbor Freight to try to get some additional information, such as where the store would be and a timeline for opening. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.
As for what Harbor Freight offers, the store sells power tools, hand tools, woodworking tools, mechanic tools, lawn and garden tools, safety gear and quite a bit more. The store definitely is in the discount market with lots of coupons and discount brands. In some ways, it is a more tool-centric version of the old Bargain Depot that used to operate near 23rd and Harper. That building is vacant and is looking for a tenant, so I suppose it is possible that Harbor Freight may go there. But I also think there is another possible location.
Plans have been filed for a new tenant to go into a portion of the former Hobby Lobby building at 23rd and Ousdahl. I honestly have no inside information about where Harbor Freight may be locating, but it is worth noting that the plans for the former Hobby Lobby building call for a 16,000 square-foot tenant. That is in the right ball park for a Harbor Freight store, and the company certainly has used the strategy of locating in older buildings that used to house big box retailers. For instance, its store in Topeka is in a part of a former Kmart store, I believe.
The plans filed for the former Hobby Lobby space don’t list the name of the tenant, but I’ve got a call into the Wichita-based development group that owns the building. I’ll let you know if I hear more.
Regardless of whether Harbor Freight is slated for the space, the fact there already are redevelopments signs for the old Hobby Lobby is promising. It shows that some national retailers are pretty interested in the Lawrence market. It did not take long for the former J.C. Penney building on south Iowa Street to redevelop. It is home to the new Hobby Lobby and Five Below, both of which are open. The remaining space will be filled with a HomeGoods store. Before you ask, no, I don’t have a date for its opening. I’ve checked with the company, but a grand opening date hasn’t been released.
I had thought that the old Hobby Lobby site may take some time to redevelop but that was mainly because the old Hastings site across the street has been empty for quite awhile. Well, there's news on that site that slipped by me.
Several months ago, a group controlled by Columbia, Mo., billionaire Stan Kroenke bought the former Hastings site on the northeast corner of 23rd and Iowa streets. He is an owner of the Los Angeles Rams, the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, and the soccer club Arsenal in the English Premier League. He is a pretty rich guy on his own, but he also happened to marry a daughter of one of the co-founders of Walmart. (My heavens, he probably has a 20-tool Leatherman.)
In addition to the sports teams, Kroenke owns a lot of suburban shopping centers across the U.S. His purchase in Lawrence wasn't just for the old Hastings building, but also included the attached building with Cork & Barrel Liquor and Cici’s Pizza.
What plans does Kroenke have for the property? Believe it or not, Missouri billionaires don’t share their plans with a guy who perhaps has made some jokes about Missouri artwork involving a 1980s Camaro, cement blocks and a front yard.
But Kroenke definitely does have lots of connections with all types of retailers. At least one real estate agent I know has mentioned that Kroenke does a lot of business with Whole Foods, which has been rumored to be interested in the market.
But it also is probably worth noting that Kroenke also is involved in the hotel business, and having a hotel just south of the University of Kansas campus isn’t a dumb idea. Hopefully it wouldn’t have a black and gold color scheme. Kroenke is one of the largest University of Missouri donors.
Who knows what, if anything, he may have planned for the site? I certainly don’t, but it does make it a more interesting property to keep an eye on.