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Downtown Farmington liquor store will move to Highway 3

The downtown Farmington liquor store will soon have a new location, and Farmington City Council members are hoping it will be a profitable one.

Three of five council members favor a 5,058-square-foot site at Tamarack Ridge Center on Highway 3 over the present 6,280-square-foot location in the City Center development off of Elm Street. By consensus at a Monday work session, council directed city administrator David McKnight to go to work on securing a lease agreement for the Tamarack site.

Rent for the new site begins at $9 per square foot in the first year of the seven-year contract. Currently, the city is paying $21 per square foot, but City Center owner Tom Wartman had proposed a decrease to $13.50 per square foot for the first year of a five-year contract.

While the Tamarack bid appears lower, the city will actually pay about $10,600 more in rent in its first year of the contract, and more than $11,000 in the second year. That's because there are other costs associated with the move. The annual estimates include a relocation cost of $200,000, which will be distributed over the term of the lease, taxes, and other associated fees.

Still, council members in favor of the move think the increased visibility and traffic on Highway 3 will more than make up for the difference.

"Location is the one thing that has continually come up," council member Julie May said. "If we want to run this business and stay in this business ... I think being on Highway 3 would be our best decision."

The move is not without risk. The current location has an established customer base, and some of those customers are able to walk to the store. Moving the store to Highway 3 could compromise that base, and, while it is possible to walk to Tamarack Ridge Center from downtown, crossing the highway could deter some of those customers.

Now that Wartman has given the city a proposal for a lower lease rate, mayor Todd Larson argued the liquor store should stay put Larson asked whether the city could get a larger space on the pylon sign at the Elm Street entrance to City Center, thinking that would perhaps help increase the visibility of the current store's location.

"We would have a lower lease but keep the same amount of business," Larson said of the current site. "It's only a plus. It takes all of the risk out of it to me."

Council members Jason Bartholomay and Christy Jo Fogarty supported the move.

Regarding the concerns about taking the liquor store out of the downtown area, May suggested council might want to consider a third, "satellite" location in the future.

"I would just like us to take a chance, try something fresh and new," she said.

Parks and recreation director Randy Distad had a handful of concerns with moving to the Tamarack location. One such concern was that this will be the second move for the liquor store in less than a decade.

"You need to have a long-term plan. The key point is to make a decision and that's where we should stay in business for the next 25 to 30 years, or longer," Distad said.

The downtown liquor store's long-time neighbors, Pellicci Ace Hardware, recently moved from the City Center location to a site along Highway 3. It was a move owner Mark Pellicci does not regret.

In the four months Pellicci's Ace Hardware has been open on Highway 3, the store has seen an increase of nearly 400 customers, Pellicci said. Sales over the first months have increased by approximately 30 percent, as well.

"It was the best move we could have made," Pellicci said.

The city's current least at City Center expires Sept. 1.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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