John Hageman, Forum News Service, Published December 27 2013
Construction progressing at new GF Scheels storeGRAND FORKS – On a recent frigid morning, cement trucks shuffled around a section of the Columbia Mall parking lot here.
The construction activity centers on a vacant space on the west side of the mall, where a faded red stripe around the exterior is the last reminder of the former Target store that once occupied the site.
The dirt floor and relative emptiness inside the building will morph into the new home of Scheels over the coming months, as the sporting goods chain prepares to move from its cramped space on Columbia Road by June.
It will mark another in a series of expansions the 24-location, Fargo-based chain has undergone in the past five to eight years, its president, Steve Scheel, said last week.
“This is one of the last … expansions on our radar right now,” he said.
As Jason Heintz sits in his office, he can see out over part of the Grand Forks Scheels store he manages. From this vantage point, it’s abundantly clear how cramped the store is for space.
“We’ll obviously have a larger selection of most things,” Heintz said. “Probably the biggest expansion will be in the clothing and footwear.”
Scheels will go from about 38,000 square feet to 125,000 square feet in its new spot, Heintz said.
The expansion into the Columbia Mall location will not only mean more space and inventory, but it also will add amenities that simply aren’t available now, Scheel said. A deli-style restaurant will open there, customers will stand in front of a green screen to take photos of an imaginary fishing trip, and clothing and fashion “experts” will be on staff, Heintz said.
“They understand what the fashions are going on right now,” Heintz said. “Just like hunting and fishing might be a passion for people, some people just have the passion of fashion.”
The amenities of the new Scheels are in line with the company’s effort to draw customers not strictly by the merchandise it sells.
“We’re trying to improve the experience,” Scheel said.
While the official opening is still months away, it’s clear that progress is being made at the construction site. Heintz said most of the demolition already has been completed.
“Now it’s kind of the rebuilding point,” he said. “Everything from the plumbing in the floor, to the sprinkler system to electrical, basically all of that stuff is getting put in.”
Heintz is already preparing for the move by hiring additional staff. He said they’ll still need about another 20 full-time employees and another 40 to 50 part-timers.
Their new home will provide additional amenities for employees, as well, such as a larger break room, additional office space and training rooms. Those rooms will be available for employee-led seminars with customers, Heintz said.
Heintz said his employees are excited for the move.
“Obviously, the additional space is probably one of the greatest benefits,” he said. “We’re pretty tight in the store.”