PRESQUE ISLE – After more than 10 years of talking about it, Maine Potato Growers Inc. is building a new hardware store on Parsons Street.
Joe Lallande, MPG president and CEO, said Tuesday the foundation is being poured this week for the 14,000-square-foot facility, which will feature about 10,000-square-feet of retail space. He declined to disclose the cost of the project. He said the Presque Isle Development Fund is serving as an investor on the project.
Behind orange fencing at the construction site, crews from Buck Construction of Presque Isle were using heavy equipment to complete the foundation.
Lallande noted this is something MPG has wanted to do for a long time. He said that when he first came to work for MPG in 1997, he found in his desk drawer a set of plans for a new store. He said he has been looking actively at a new building for the last four to five years.
The president said the construction is a much anticipated and needed change for MPG.
“We will gain additional retail space,” he said. “What we’ll have is a more comfortable store. In that, we’ll be able to have wider aisles between shelves and have room for a broader assortment of merchandise. … The lighting, the spaciousness, the decor, you name it. It’s going to be night and day compared to the existing facility.”
Once the new building is up, the oldest portion of the existing hardware store, which is located just south of the construction site, will be torn down and the remaining portion will be converted into warehouse space. Lallande said that other warehouses on the MPG “campus” on Parsons Street will remain where they are, as will “headquarters,” which is south of the existing hardware store.
Lallande said that with the new store, MPG officials plan to add variety to the products they already carry and add new lines.
“We felt that particularly with the advent of yet more and new competition into the market that we really needed to upgrade the store if we were going to remain a viable competitor,” Lallande said.
Despite the new competition – in the form of a Lowe’s home improvement center, which opened its doors this week on Maysville Street in Presque Isle – Lallande said MPG officials believe they will be able to sustain business into the future.
“We think we occupy a niche of convenience hardware,” Lallande said. “If you have a number of items that you’re interested in purchasing, if you just want to come in, make a quick stop, get what you need, and have folks help you find what you need, then we’re the place. If you’re intent on replacing an entire bathroom, you’re going to go somewhere else.”
Lallande said officials studied the market very carefully before moving forward with new construction.
“We’re very confident we can continue to compete effectively against the big-box store,” he said. “It’s certainly our intention and vision that we compete with them but not against them. The distinction is that we believe they have a niche, we have a unique niche, and we will be able to attract our traditional customer base and serve them.”
Lallande said that the target completion date for the project is early spring 2007.