Looks like Rural King finally on way to Sugarcreek

After nearly two years of uncertainty and speculation, it looks as if Rural King may finally be moving in to the former Kmart in Sugarcreek Towne Center on Allegheny Boulevard.

“Renovations are underway at the Rural King,” Sugarcreek Borough Council president John McClelland enthusiastically told the newspaper this week.

McClelland has been in an up-close position throughout this journey as not only a council member but a former Kmart employee who had hoped to find work with the next tenant of the building when Rural King made the $2.4 million purchase in May 2018.

Because of this, he’s been keeping a very close eye on the property and took it upon himself to investigate when he noticed people and vehicles at the store earlier this week.

An application for a building permit was submitted to the borough Feb. 17 by Allen Engineering Corp. of Decatur, Illinois, and contractors Austin Construction Co. of Charleston, West Virginia, on behalf of Rural King.

“We’re going to be starting with a complete remodel within the month,” Mike Oary, a CAD technician with Allen Engineering, told the newspaper Friday.

Oary said this remodel will entail removing the remaining aspects of what made the building Kmart, like pulling up the tile floors, knocking down partition walls and replacing the ceiling tile and lights.

“Basically almost gutting it,” Oary said.

As for what to expect from the new space, Oary said Rural King “likes the polished concrete floors,” but he remained mum on other plans. He did say the process would include replacing the parking lot lights.

The construction permit filed with the borough puts a total pricetag of $218,595 on the project, but Oary said that number could fluctuate.

“It varies from store to store … it depends on how much or how little work needs to be done,” he said, indicating the figure is an average estimate the company uses for similar projects.

This information comes as a relief for McClelland and many borough residents who were beginning to look at the old store like it was just another abandoned building.

“I began to wonder if they were ever coming,” McClelland said.

He has been outspoken in his annoyance at the way the company has handled the transition since it became clear it had no intention of keeping the borough in the loop.

Frequent attempts by the newspaper to speak with Rural King about its plans for the site have resulted in unreturned telephone messages or vague answers to questions.

“I cannot comment on anything at this time,” Blake Pierce, director of real estate and procurement for Rural King, said Friday.

Pierce did say a press release by the company could be expected in the “next 30 days.”

Meanwhile, McClelland is all smiles now. All he’s ever wanted is for the space to be filled by an “anchor” retailer like Rural King has the opportunity to become. He also said he thinks the opening could help revitalize Sugarcreek’s business district.

“It will be nice to see that space filled again,” McClelland said. “It has definitely been missed.”