By fall, the 90,000-square-foot retail cavern left empty in Johnstown last year when Walmart moved a few miles down Route 30A will again be filled with shoppers.
This time around, the building will be home to Runnings, a Minnesota-based general merchandise retailer of everything from farm, pet and hunting supplies to clothing and home decor.
According to Runnings spokesman Dennis Jensen, the Johnstown location is just one piece of an ambitious expansion into upstate New York.
“We feel very good about this area,” he said.
Over the next two years, five stores will open in New York, one each in Rome, Canandaigua, Clay, Ticonderoga and Johnstown. It’s a big jump for Runnings. The company currently operates 34 stores mainly in Minnesota, Montana and the Dakotas.
Jensen said his company chose to abandon the conventional, linear spread approach in favor of long-distance transplants. Runnings, he said, has buying partnerships with other retail outlets in the Midwest that effectively bar expansion there.
“We don’t want to step on any toes,” he said.
He couldn’t say which companies Runnings works with, only that there aren’t nearly as many toes to step on in New York.
The new Runnings store in Johnstown will create roughly 70 part- and full-time jobs, which Johnstown town Supervisor Nancy MacVean said is a major score for her area.
“People say local wages stay in the county,” she said. “Any jobs are good.”
Beyond the jobs, she’s looking forward to getting some sales-tax revenue back for her government. When Walmart moved three miles south into the city of Gloversville, her town lost $116,000 in yearly sales tax revenue, a significant percentage of its annual total.
She doesn’t expect Runnings to be the same type of sales juggernaut Walmart once was for the town, but she does have high hopes.
“We have a lot of hunters here,” she said.
Several other recent business plans, she said, will also help bridge the sales-tax gap left by Walmart. A big CVS Pharmacy moved in as well as an Advanced Auto Parts and a new gas station.
“Between all those,” she said, “We’ll be doing just as well, and that’s good news for every town and village in the county.”
MacVean said towns and villages in Fulton County share a portion of their collected sales taxes. The cities of Johnstown and Gloversville aren’t part of the arrangement. When Walmart moved, other rural municipalities such as Ephratah and Stratford also lost out.
Aside from providing rural hunters with gear and Carhartt jackets, MacVean said Runnings will restore a portion of rural government funding — not that the funding was gone for that long.
“Usually these sorts of big buildings sit empty for longer,” said Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer.
The old Fifth Avenue Walmart building was left empty in August. MacVean first heard of Runnings’ interest a few months ago. That’s a faster-than-usual turnover, according to Kilmer.
Jensen said it was actually the building that attracted Runnings to Johnstown.
“We started expanding our stores several years ago,” he said. “We realized people wanted a larger selection.”