CHAMPAIGN – Rural King plans to open a store in Champaign, taking over the space formerly occupied by Wal-Mart and Steve & Barry's. The farm supply retailer has slated an Oct. 1 opening for the store at 913 W. Marketview Drive, said Matt Garrison, regional manager for the Mattoon-based chain.
Rural King – which also has a store in Rantoul – carries farm equipment, tools, lawn-and-garden supplies, work wear, livestock feed, clothing, housewares, toys and pet supplies.
The chain has stores in six states, and the Champaign store will be its 44th, Garrison said.
Rural King bought the 120,000-square-foot building, located just south of Sam's Club, and plans to use the entire building, he said.
"The most exciting thing we're going to offer is a drive-through feed department, where customers can drive through and pick up feed," Garrison said.
Like all Rural King stores, the Champaign store will offer free popcorn and coffee for customers. Unlike the other stores, this one will include a full-service branch of First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust in front, Garrison said.
Mid-Illinois declined comment on the new office.
The Rural King store will employ 60 to 80 people, many of whom have already been hired, Garrison said.
The building's exterior has been painted, and crews are replacing the vinyl tile floor with concrete floors.
"That's so working people don't feel they have to clean up before they come into the store," Garrison said.
The store will be managed by Rhonda Grisamore, who has vowed to make the Champaign store "the friendliest store in town," Garrison said.
Champaign has been on Rural King's radar for a while, he added.
"We've been looking at that location for quite some time. We bypassed that a long time ago and went to Rantoul," he said. "But we thought the timing was right to come to the city. It's the size building we want and the side of town we want. We think the city does need an actual farm store."
The Rural King store in Rantoul will remain open, and down the road, "we'll refurbish that, but for now we'll concentrate on Champaign," Garrison said.
The building has an 18-year history. It opened as a Wal-Mart store in late 1991 and was used for that until July 2005, when Wal-Mart moved to a new 204,000-square-foot supercenter on North Prospect Avenue.
In August 2006, Steve & Barry's opened a sportswear store in the former Wal-Mart space, but that chain liquidated its stores in the fall of 2008.