By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The empty anchor spots at the Holiday Village Shopping Center are close to being filled, after five years of vacancy.
The Havre Big R Store is moving from its location on U.S. Highway 2 East to the empty anchor space on the west end of the mall, which used to house Woolworths, then Gibsons. Gibsons closed in 1997.
Meanwhile, the mall's owner continues to negotiate with Bi-Mart, a membership discount store that is considering leasing the eastern anchor spot, empty since the J.C. Penney Co. store there closed in 1998.
"This will be a huge help simply because when you have anchors you have traffic throughout the mall," said Tiffany Korb of T.K. Management Co., which manages the shopping center.
Carol Wavrick, who owns the Family Scoop Ice Cream Shop as well as Game Point, a video game arcade in the mall, said she is glad the anchor spots are filling up.
"It's absolutely wonderful," she said. "I think it's a help to the mall and a help to Havre. This is such a nice mall. I've been here over 10 years and it's about time it filled up."
Her businesses have lost foot traffic - and sales - since the anchors left, Wavrick said.
Jim Clark, who owns and operates Sears in Holiday Village with his wife, Betty, said foot traffic has been pretty good for his business even without the anchors, but that he is glad for a couple of reasons.
"One, you want to fill up the mall. Two, competition is good," he said.
The mall's floor space was about 58 percent full before Big R signed the lease, which filled it to about 71.5 percent, Korb said. If Bi-Mart signs a lease for the east anchor spot, Holiday Village will be about 89 percent full.
A bullpen is being constructed on the mall parking lot to hold Big R's fencing supplies, and the mall is renovating the parking lot while that work is done, Korb said.
Curb islands are being removed to straighten driving lanes in the parking lot and to improve the lot's organization, she said.
CSWW Inc. of Great Falls, owner of Big R in Havre, announced in an advertisement that the new Big R store will open in the shopping center no later than Oct. 1.
Wayne Wike of CSWW declined to comment.
The announcement said more staffers will be hired to better manage the 36,000-square-foot sales floor and expanded merchandise. The store will increase its selection of pet supplies, Western and work wear, tools, automotive supplies, sporting goods, plumbing, electrical, hardware and farm and ranch supplies, the announcement said.
The increase in farm and ranch supplies will include an increase in fencing and tack and feed supplies.
The new location allows much greater parking space, and will include spaces marked for truck and trailer parking, the announcement said.
Big R, originally Sandvig's, has operated in the Highway 2 East location since 1970, the announcement said. Its original merchandise included clothing, tires, batteries, and farm and ranch supplies.
CSWW Inc. also operates Big R stores in Great Falls, Jamestown, N.D., and Spokane, Wash.
The bottom of the two-floor location already has been filled. Milk River Archery, which has a target range and sells archery equipment, leased part of the basement in 2002, Korb said. The business had been in the spot without a lease before that.
Whalen Tire moved from its location on U.S. Highway 2 East to the basement of the site in March.
Korb said the last business to leave the mall was the Earresistable in April. The last business to leave before that was Espresso Etc., which closed in October.