BEMIDJI -- After years of vacancy, the former home of Pamida in Bemidji is just months away from being active again.
Rob St. Michel, owner of St. Michel Furniture and Floor Covering, is moving the company’s Bemidji location from 123 Beltrami Ave. NW to the building that sits at 200 Paul Bunyan Dr. S. According to St. Michel, the relocation process started about a year ago. He finalized buying the building in October.
“Our target date to open is between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, as the lease for our current location is up at the end of August,” he said.
Pamida closed down at that location in February 2012. The retailer had been operating in Bemidji for more than 30 years.
“The building is located in such a good area. We’ve liked our location, and we love being downtown. But, being located on Paul Bunyan Drive, for us, is very important with the amount of traffic there is and all of the things that are going on,” St. Michel said. “My lease was also coming up in the building we’re in, and if I was going to make any kind of change, now was the time.”
The furniture store will only take up about 60 percent of the building, equaling roughly 28,000 square feet, St. Michel said. As a result, between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet in the building will be available for rent. Remodeling has started on the interior, he said.
St. Michel said he’s also been speaking with individuals about the surrounding area and its history.
In 1988, when a new section of the building was constructed, skeletal remains belonging to people of the Dakota Sioux were uncovered and through excavation, more than 12,000 Native American artifacts were revealed.
“I’ve read the American Indian cemetery research that the city has. It talks about the artifacts and the people who were unearthed when part of this building was built. I’ve learned a lot, but I don’t know everything yet,” St. Michel said. “I’m working with state agencies and I’m hoping I can meet with tribal officials to introduce myself and talk with them about the things that can be done and see what they want to do in the area. There’s a history here, and it’s a Native American history that I’m hoping can be preserved.”
Based in Rugby, N.D., St. Michel Furniture started in 1997 and the Bemidji location was opened five years ago. St. Michel said the new location will make the Bemidji location the largest store in the company. In addition to Rugby, the company's other stores are located in Bottineau and Devils Lake, N.D.