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Design Center building to see new tenants; Sears, St. Michel Furniture to move downtown

BEMIDJI — The Design Center building in downtown Bemidji will undergo major changes this summer.

As the remaining merchandise from current business goes to auction today, another furniture store and Sears are preparing to move into the space at 123 Beltrami Ave NW.

St. Michel Furniture & Floor Coverings, which has three locations in North Dakota, will lease a 28,000 square-foot space, said the Design Center’s owner Royce Southerland. The Bemidji City Council approved, with several contingencies, a $65,000 loan from its revolving loan fund on Monday to St. Michel to buy inventory and cover other startup costs.

That came after the council voted in April to include the Union Square area in what it considers the Rail Corridor, making businesses there eligible for a those loans.

"It’s a perfect fit for our business and a perfect fit for us to grow," said owner Rob St. Michel during Monday’s council meeting. "We hope to bring some jobs and some stability to that area. And where we have been in the past, we’ve been stable."

He said at the meeting he hoped to open in Bemidji by mid-summer.

Meanwhile, the Sears on State Highway 197 on the west side of town had been sold to Tony Olson, who owns and operates the Sears in International Falls. He plans on moving the business into the Design Center building sometime this summer, said current owner Ron Bodenheimer.

The building, located at 2722 Paul Bunyan Drive NW, will remain on the market for purchase or lease, Bodenheimer said. Olson will take over the business June 2, he added, but was unsure when he would move across town.

"I’ve been in it for over 37 years," Bodenheimer said, adding that he’s worked for Sears on the West Coast before taking over the store here in 2004. "It’s just kind of time for everybody, you know?"

Home Repair Professionals, located in the Sears building, will remain open for the near future, Bodenheimer said.

Southerland, who owns the Design Center building with his wife, Kristie, said the furniture store and Sears, which will occupy about 10,000 square feet at the front of the store, will be separated by a wall and door.

"It’s going to be kind of neat," Southerland said, adding that they will sell appliances and other home products. "It’s going to be a one-stop kind of shop."

Olson was unavailable for comment Friday.

Meanwhile, Roycee Rai’s Boutique may get lost in the business shuffle for some time. Southerland said Bemidji Downtown Meats, which leases part of the Design Center building, may move in the near future to another location in town.

That would open up a spot for the boutique, Southerland said.

Dustin Merseth, owner of Bemidji Downtown Meats, confirmed that they are looking at moving into their own building sometime in the future. But the timing of that move comes down to financing, he said.

The Design Center is holding an auction on its showroom floor from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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