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CEDAR RAPIDS - Fleet Farm opened the doors to its first retail store in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor on Tuesday, adding a new anchor to the Highway 100 extension at Edgewood Road NE.
Located in the new Edgewood Town Centre, the store boasts a massive 192,000-square-foot footprint - one of the largest in the area - and more than 200 employees. Friends and family of employees and others got a sneak peek Tuesday afternoon.
'We like sites where we can have farms to one side and suburbs on the other,” said Derick Prelle, Fleet Farm president and chief executive officer. 'Of all the new stores we are opening, this site was my favorite.”
The location at 4650 Cross Pointe Blvd. will hold a soft opening today and Thursday, and an official grand opening weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a storewide scavenger hunt for prizes and hats for the first 500 customers on Friday and Saturday.
Store hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
The Appleton, Wis.-based company offers everything from hunting, camping and sporting goods to clothing, toys, and groceries; from hardware and farm implements to automotive supplies.
There's an in-store tire center and a detached gas station with car wash. While originally catering to farmers, that market now only represents about a quarter of the 117,000 products the retailer offers.
Founded in 1955, Fleet Farm has more than 40 stores around the Midwest. Despite struggles of brick and mortar stores - big boxes, in particular - Fleet Farm is in growth mode with Iowa at the center of its plans. In the next year, locations are expected to open in Cedar Falls, Waukee, and West Bend, Wis., and earlier this year a location opened in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Fleet Farm already has locations in Ankeny and Mason City.
'No one is crazy enough to put all of these different things under one roof,” Prelle said. 'If you are not ridiculously unique in retail, you are going to lose to Amazon and e-commerce. Every day we ask, what have you done to make it harder for people to say who else is like Fleet Farm.”
Fleet Farm recently halted plans for a store in Tiffin, but Prelle cautioned not to read too much into that announcement.
'We like the Iowa City market,” Prelle said. 'There will be one there in the future. It's a matter of right time, right place.”
City officials were on hand for the initial tour Wednesday night, during which Fleet Farm provided grants to Old MacDonald's Farm, Miracles in Motion and Indian Creek Nature Center.
'It is significant,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said. 'This is a major national retailer recognizing the beauty and opportunity of coming to Cedar Rapids.”
He foresees more growth in the area. The Highway 100 extension opened a new region of the otherwise landlocked Cedar Rapids, and more homes and development are on the horizon, Hart said.
Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said Fleet Farm representatives approached him three years ago about this specific site but at the time it was owned by Transamerica and was not available.
When Transamerica agreed to sell to developer Joe Ahmann, Pomeranz helped make the connection. Prelle said while they looked at other sites, this was the one they wanted.
The company's arrival is a positive for Cedar Rapids, he said, noting it will be a 'strong taxpayer for the community.”
The city helped incentivize the development with a 10-year, 50 percent tax break estimated at $5.6 million rebated to Ahmann through tax increment financing.
Ahmann, of Ahmann Companies, is the developer behind the 56-acre Edgewood Town Centre. A mixed use strip is being planned east of Fleet Farm, and restaurants and retail tenants are expected to be announced in the next few months, he said.
Ahmann also is developing a site called River Ridge immediately south headlined by Randy Kuehl Honda. Hotel developers are interested in the site, and a multifamily housing project also is expected to begin construction on 8 acres west of the Toyota Financial this fall, he said.
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