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Bi-Mart coming to town?

Commercial zone's biggest hole may be filled soon
by: Marcus Hathcock, Mayor Linda Malone said she has seen activity inside the former Danielson’s space during the last few days. “It looks like they’re already moving stuff in there and setting up,” she said.

It appears that one of the biggest holes in Sandy's commercial zone soon will be filled, as Bi-Mart prepares to take over the space formerly occupied by Danielson's Thriftway in the Sandy Marketplace shopping center.

City Manager Scott Lazenby wrote to the City Council and his department heads Saturday, Jan. 19, that City Planning Director Tracy Brown 'confirmed the rumor that Bi-Mart intends to move into the space …'

Brown learned of Bi-Mart's 'very serious' intentions for Sandy by talking to a contractor who works with the company. The contractor told Brown that a team from Bi-Mart and Phillips Edison will be in Sandy Wednesday, Jan. 23, to review the Sandy Marketplace site.

'The contractor I talked to seemed very serious about it,' Brown said. 'It looks like they have a real interest of coming to Sandy.'

Neither Bi-Mart nor Sandy Marketplace owners Phillips Edison would comment on the store's move to Sandy because the deal has not yet been finalized. Bi-Mart executives said they hoped a deal would be closed in about a week.

Eyeing the area

Bi-Mart spokesman Don Leber said the chain has been eyeing the Sandy area. Despite having stores in neighboring Damascus and Gresham, Leber said member demographics show that a Sandy location would do well.

Of Bi-Mart's approximately 1 million member families, Leber said there are 'several thousand' in the Sandy area.

'We're a membership store,' Leber said. 'We know where our members reside. We have thousands of members in the Sandy area and the areas that feed into Sandy. We're always looking to be able to serve our members the best we can.'

The 30,000-square-foot former grocery store space has been vacant since Danielson's went out of business in June 2004.

In the nearly four years since the store closed - reportedly due to the arrival of Fred Meyer at 362nd Avenue - property owner after property owner tried to lease the space, to no avail.

Phillips Edison, a Baltimore-based real estate company that owns more than 24 million square feet of retail space nationwide, took over the troubled shopping center last year. On its Web site, the company claims its 'primary mission has been to purchase under-performing, grocery-anchored properties and maximize their value …'

Phillips Edison suffered a setback in that mission shortly after purchasing Sandy Marketplace, when Hi-School Pharmacy announced that it would be closing. That store's owners claimed that Phillips Edison's requirement that Hi-School sign a long-term lease was one of the reasons they closed.

Since the summer, the shopping center - which includes Baskin Robbins, Dos Margaritas, Wy'east Optics, Northern Alliance and H and R Block - was anchored by Dollar Tree, with as many as seven of its 23 spots vacant, including the two largest spaces.

But things began to turn around late last year when Phillips Edison allowed burgeoning Sandy-based company Hearth Classics to use some of the former Thriftway space to store its stock of hearth pads.

In December, Phillips Edison filled its first significant hole when Sandy's Napa Auto Parts relocated from its location near Ten Eyck Road on Proctor Boulevard to Dollar Tree's former home.

Now, the very real possibility of Bi-Mart coming to town has city leaders thinking that revitalization is under way.

'I'm happy for businesses in that shopping center,' Mayor Linda Malone said. 'Having an anchor back in that place will help them, too. Between Bi-Mart going in there and Napa Auto Parts moving in there, it will revitalize that whole center.'

Malone said although Bi-Mart wouldn't have been her first choice for a new store - she wants a business that offers 'something different,' like Trader Joe's - she's happy the spot will be filled.

'It's a good sign that a progressive, growing company would make the effort to fill the spot, especially with the way the economy is,' Malone said. 'I'm just glad to see them have confidence in our local economy.'

Of course, Bi-Mart coming to town wouldn't be as easy as just moving in.

Brown said the company plans to build additional warehouse space behind the store, install about seven HVAC units on the roof, set up a few walls and make a few other minor improvements - all subject to city approval.

'From a planning perspective, though, it's fairly minimal,' Brown said. He noted that the city likely would require Phillips Edison to approve the driveway that connects the Sandy Marketplace with Mt. Hood Athletic Club.

It is unknown what kind of timeline Bi-Mart would have for opening.

About Bi-Mart

Bi-Mart has a lot in common with the company that almost was its neighbor, Hi-School Pharmacy.

Both companies are 'Northwest grown' - Hi-School is based out of Vancouver, Wash.; Bi-Mart is headquartered in Eugene.

Both offer pharmacies. Both mainly deal in housewares, sporting goods, automotive, hardware, health and beauty, toys, clothing and food.

Bi-Mart differs in that it, like Costco or Sam's Club, is a membership store. But unlike those stores, which ask for annual membership fees, it costs a one-time $5 payment to join Bi-Mart.

'From the mail I deliver, there's a pretty hefty number of people who belong to Bi-Mart,' said Malone, who works as a Gresham postal carrier. 'People here have told me they hoped a Bi-Mart would go in there.'

Bi-Mart employs approximately 3,000 people - an average of more than 40 employees per store.

It's 100 percent employee owned; through the Bi-Mart Corporation Employee Stock Ownership Plan, staff members receive allocations of company stock, which goes into a retirement account for each employee.

The 30,000-square-foot space at Sandy Marketplace should suit Bi-Mart just fine; Leber said the average store is approximately 31,000 square feet.

'It's pretty much the same floor plan throughout all 67 stores,' he said, 'no matter what market we're in.'

To see the layout of Bi-Mart stores, visit www.bimart.com and click on 'departments.'