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Menards to build in Bemidji

Menards, the Eau Claire, Wis.,-based hardware chain, has announced the intention to build a new store in Bemidji.

The site will be the property now owned by Spaulding Motors, 2620 Paul Bunyan Drive N.W.

Brandon Wilmer, the real estate project manager handling the Bemidji deal, said in a Thursday afternoon telephone interview from Eau Claire that the store will cover a little more than 160,000 square feet inside, with another 40,000-plus square feet in outdoor overhang space and a 26,000-plus-square-foot warehouse.

"This is currently the largest standard store we implement as far as the building footprint," Wilmer said.

Tim Hins, general manager of Spaulding Motors, said he didn't want to comment on or provide a timeline for the sale.

"We're operating as usual," he said Thursday. "Things are pending."

He also declined to specify a dealership that would pick up the brands of vehicles Spaulding sells and services, but he said those lines would be available in Bemidji.

"There will be a Pontiac, GMC and Cadillac dealer in Bemidji for a long time," Hins said.

Spaulding also sells Hondas.

Wilmer also said he couldn't give a timeline for Menards' groundbreaking or grand opening.

"A lot of that is going to be controlled by the current owner," Wilmer said. "We have a contract to purchase the property, but we have not closed on the property."

However, from groundbreaking, Menards stores usually take about a year to complete, he said.

He said he had met with Bemidji city officials on Tuesday to discuss Menards' plans.

The nearest Menards stores are in Baxter, International Falls and Grand Forks, N.D., all about 100 miles from Bemidji.

"We would like to divide that distance in half and draw from 50 miles," Wilmer said.

He said Menards operates 200 stores in the Upper Midwest -- Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.

"We're starting to branch into Ohio and southern Illinois," he said.

He added that Menards has been looking to locate in Bemidji for several years.