Spokane Journal of Business

Bi-Mart to enter market with Cheney store

Discount retail chain to open outlet in late fall, plans to hire roughly 60 employees

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Bi-Mart Corp., a Eugene, Ore.-based members-only discount retail chain, has begun work on a 31,000-square-foot store in Cheney, which will be its first outlet in the Spokane area when it opens late this fall.

Construction of the store started about a month ago on 3 acres of leased land east of state Route 904 and just north of the Cheney Trading Company Food Store, located at SR 904 and Cheney-Spokane Road, says Don Leber, director of advertising at Bi-Mart.

The company likely will hire between 50 and 60 employees to work at the new outlet, Leber says. He declines to disclose the cost of the construction project.

McCormack Construction Co., of Pendleton, Ore., is the contractor, and Eugene-based SS&W Inc. did the engineering work on the store, says Joe Tortorelli, an economic-development consultant to the city of Cheney.

Bi-Marts stores include departments such as housewares, photo and electronics, clothing, sporting goods, automotive, hardware, pharmacy, groceries, and toys, Leber says. Members must pay a onetime $5 fee that provides access to any of the companys 65 stores in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. The company offers its goods at deep-discount prices, and it competes with both small retailers and large ones, including Costco and Wal-Mart, he says. Bi-Mart has 3,000 employees, who own the company through an employee stock ownership program.

Currently, the nearest Bi-Mart stores to the Spokane area are located in East Wenatchee and Walla Walla, Wash., Leber says. Cheney is an ideal market for the company, which typically targets smaller towns outside of larger metropolitan areas, says company President John Harris. Bi-Mart is always looking at other opportunities for expansion, but for now hasnt pinpointed any locations for additional stores in this area, he says.

Cheney happens to be the perfect fit for us as far as its size, Harris says. Were going to provide a broad mix of goods and should be a good fit for the community as far as the existing retailers they have there.

Bi-Mart leased the land in Cheney two years ago, but before starting construction had been waiting for clearance from a number of state and federal agencies to clean up and relocate a drainage ditch that runs through the property, Tortorelli says.

The company recently received approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move the portion of the ditch that runs through the property, which was the final green light it needed to move forward with the project, he says.

Todd Tarbert, who owns the property along with 18 acres of adjacent land, hopes to get final approval within the next month to relocate the rest of the drainage ditch that runs through his other property, in preparation for developing commercial spaces there eventually. The property is bounded by SR 904 to the west, railroad tracks to the north and east, and the Cheney Trading Company store to the south, he says.

The drainage ditch currently winds through the property, so Tarbert plans to move it so it runs along the propertys eastern border. He hopes to carve a new channel this year and reroute the water next year.

Tarbert hasnt set a timeline for when he plans to develop commercial and mixed-use buildings on the rest of the property, and says hell let market conditions dictate his development schedule. Currently, a pad large enough to accommodate a restaurant sits between the Bi-Mart site and SR 904, and Tarbert says hes been talking with potential tenants for that site.

Im very bullish on Cheney, and its very exciting to be part of whats going on, but I want to be careful not to get ahead of the market, he says.

A mobile home park has been located on a portion of Tarberts property since the 1950s, and he says that when he starts developing the western part of the land, along SR 904, hell move the mobile home units to the eastern part of the property.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

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