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Ocean State Job Lot, Tractor Supply to Open in North Adams

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
An Ocean State Job Lot is expected to move into the former Walmart store along with two other tenants.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Closeout retailer Ocean State Job Lot has signed a purchase and sales agreement for the old Walmart building on Curran Highway.

The chain expects to hire for 30 to 40 jobs and will sublet a section of the building to Tractor Supply Inc., with both operations opening in the fall, pending permitting.

The location will be the 46th in Massachusetts for the North Kingstown, R.I.-based chain, which has several stores in the Springfield area. It has 109 stores total with 4,000 employees in New England and New York, and annual sales of more than $540 million.

Tractor Supply, a farm and ranch retailer, operates more than 1,000 stores nationwide with the closest in Pittsfield's Allendale section and in Bennington, Vt.

Walmart constructed the 94,000-square-foot building at 830 Curran Highway 20 years ago at the site of the former Coury's Drive-In. It relocated two weeks ago to a new 160,000 square foot "super center" a mile or so south.

Ocean State will take up 40,000 square feet of the building for operations and storage; Tractor Supply will occupy 27,000. The plans will go before the Planning Board for permitting on June 10.

Ocean State's head of marketing, David Sarlitto, said the area was a good fit for the chain, which looks for right-priced, retail-based real estate that can be readily repurposed in good shopping locations. Walmart, too, has been aggressive in selling off vacant locations to other businesses.

"Massachusetts has done pretty well for us," he said, adding that Ocean State had been aware of the Walmart building's upcoming vacancy. "We've been talking to them for quite a while for their plans, and the price was right."

Ocean State's store size varies from about 19,000 square feet to mid-50,000s, said Sarlitto. The new North Adams location is about right in the middle. "I think this one is right in the sweet spot."

There are still some elements to be worked out with the city and the agreement but the number of inquiries the store was getting about a possible opening led to Tuesday's announcement.

There also is the likelihood of a third operation going into that location, since some 27,000 square feet would still be available, but Sarlitto said there was nothing he could specifically say at this point.

According to the retailer, Ocean State sells brand-name, first-quality merchandise at closeout prices, including household goods, apparel, pet supplies, seasonal products (gardening, pool supply, outdoor), and kitchen pantry staples. The chain buys overstocks and discontinued items.

Sarlitto said the store carries everything from $2,000 pellet stoves to 39 cent Pez dispensers, and if they could sell a 747, they'd carry that, too.

As one example, the chain recently bought all the excess cleaning equipment from the BP oil spill in the Gulf.  "We now own more hazmat suits than any store in North America," said Sarlitto.

The company plans two donations to area organizations to coincide with its North Adams store opening through its Charitable Foundation: a tractor-trailer load of food to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts with distributions to local food pantries, and the sponsorship of Honor Flight New England, which flies Massachusetts-based World War II veterans to visit the WWII Memorial dedicated to their service in Washington, D.C.

Mayor Richard Alcombright called the opening good news for the city.

"I think these are two national, regional retailers that are both strong within their markets," said Alcombright, who figured that once the building was fully occupied, it would mean 70 to 80 full and part-time jobs. "I think it's a good fit for the area, the price points are there for the people to shop.

 "They create another bit of an anchor and destination post with Walmart."

The addition of Ocean State and Tractor Supply, just down the road from the Walmart Super Center, adds to the idea of creating a "shopping destination" along the Curran Highway corridor that officials hope will continue to draw more anchor stores and spill over to the smaller unique stores and restaurants in the downtown. 

In a statement, the mayor had said, "We are a city that's committed to being business friendly and are focused on the positive economic development and goodwill initiatives that Ocean State Job Lot can bring to our community."

Sarlitto said the goal was to open by October, sooner if possible.

"We're hoping step it up as fast as we can," he said. "I think it will work out well."

Updated at 3:25 p.m. to add mayor's comments.

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