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Plans on track for spring Home of Economy opening

By Staff | Jan 31, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Home of Economy is adding a new loading dock to the former Shopko building.

Plans for a new Home of Economy store on the site of the former Shopko building in Rugby are “on track” for a spring grand opening, according to a company leader.

“We’re still on track,” Home of Economy CEO Scott Pearson told the Tribune by phone last week. “Our plans have been fairly ambitious. To be open April 1 is our hope. I’d love to be open very early April.”

In addition to a grand opening celebration, Rugby’s new store will host sales events unique to Home of Economy throughout the year.

Promotions featuring Traeger grills will give shoppers a chance to sample a variety of smoked meats.

Pearson said a popular Home of Economy attraction, called a “gator party,” would come to the new Rugby store.

“Tentatively,” Pearson said, “It appears right now, we’ll have Bruce Mitchell, the Alligator Man from the show, ‘Swamp People,’ attending. He’s been at several of our other parties and we really enjoy having him there. He’s a fun person to do this with.”

“We serve mostly other food,” Pearson explained. “Alligator meat is sort of a treat that goes along with it. We cull a whole alligator and lots of other alligator food – nuggets and smoked alligator bites.”

“There’s a lot of pulled pork and bratwurst and more familiar food, too,” Pearson said.

“We do things like that,” Pearson noted with enthusiasm. ” I’m the head chef for all these events. That’s why I started talking about it. I get to be the head chef and I get to serve meals for thousands of people and we have a good time.”

“It’s all free,” Pearson added. “We don’t charge for any of our food events.”

Pearson said he’s already heard from Rugby residents about merchandise they hope Home of Economy would carry.

“We’ve talked with a lot of people about that,” Pearson said. “Some areas we don’t do as much in currently, like children’s snow suits came up.”

“Our strength has been in farm supplies. Jamestown, for example, we do more ranch items than in other stores because we have room in Jamestown, and there’s demand in Jamestown and it’s fairly obvious that we need to do more in Rugby than we do in Devils Lake,” Pearson continued. “So, that will happen.”

“We have some thoughts and we’ve been talking to a few local people and listening,” Pearson said. “The work clothing is where we’re strongest. So, that would be for sure the largest area (of inventory). Power tools and outdoor power equipment – we’re going to be a full-line (retailer of) Stihl power equipment and a full-line dealer of Honda power equipment.”

“Dewalt tools and Milwaukee tools, all those things I think will be important in Rugby, so we’ll go in with a big effort there,” Pearson added. “It’s not a very big building, so we have to work with what we have. That means we can’t do everything we’d like.”

“I would encourage people to voice their needs,” Pearson said. “For example, the children’s winter clothing – somebody from Rugby said they were trying to buy winter clothing for their grandchildren and there was nothing available. They asked if we would have that.”

Pearson said children’s winter clothing would be at the store “because I promised and we had a request. Of course, we need to go into where there’s a demand. That’s good because it’s good for our business, and it meets the needs of the people of Rugby.”

Although Home of Economy hasn’t begun staffing the new Rugby store yet, Pearson said, “We’d like to hire 14 employees. That would change with the amount of business we’re doing and the needs we have. But that’s the plan.”

Pearson said remodeling work on the store building’s interior to fit Home of Economy’s needs has been running smoothly.

“Nothing’s gone wrong so far,” Pearson said. “Sometimes you discover heating units that don’t work, but this building is in very nice shape. Our renovation is going well.”

“In our loading dock area, we had to revise things because we wanted to be able to handle merchandise more efficiently,” Pearson noted. “But it’s all going well.”

Pearson outlined other work to be done to the building.

“The floors have to be redone,” he noted. “Some of the wear and tear (needs to be repaired). Some of the ceiling tiles need cleaning or replacing and the floor tiles – it seems Shopko had a lot of deferred maintenance in recent years.”

Pearson said most of the work is “just cleanup. Some of the bathrooms needed some work and the office space needed improvements, and, of course, all the technology is outdated, so computer wiring and cameras and all that need to be done. We have to make it our own, of course, so we want to change colors and do repainting.”

A family business, Home of Economy began in Thief River Falls, Minn., when Bob and Jean Kiesau opened a business selling auto parts. The Kiesaus, grandparents of Pearson and his brother, Wayne, the company’s president, later purchased auto supply stores in North Dakota and expanded the inventory.

“Our grandparents started in 1939,” Pearson said, “and in the ’60s, I think it was 1962, they bought a chain of stores called TBA stores, all but one. I think there’s still a TBA store in Bottineau.”

The Home of Economy store the Kiesaus opened in Rugby later closed.

“Rugby was closed and we always intended to go back,” Pearson said. “Prior to my brother and me taking over, it never really happened. We had been looking and wishing, and, of course, we’d drive right by our new Rugby store every time we’d go to one of our western stores.”

“We’d say, ‘We’d sure like to be back in Rugby,’ and the Shopko thing happened and made it much more possible,” Pearson added.

These days, Pearson said, “My brother and I run Home of Economy today and my mother participates.”

Their mother, Virginia Eelkema, stays involved in the business as her sons manage day-to-day operations.

“It’s exciting,” Pearson said of his involvement in the family business. “You feel some weight of responsibility for a lot of people, but we have a lot of fun. We’d like to do some events – we’re planning some good stuff.”

“This is not something that we do every single year,” Pearson added. “Opening a new store is a big event for us and it’s a lot of fun to do these things and be building the company. I’m really excited about coming to Rugby. We’ll meet a lot of people and I really enjoy that.”

“We’ll personally be at the grand opening and we’ll be there a lot,” Pearson said. “We’ll meet a lot of Rugby people and we’ll really enjoy that.”

Former Rugby resident and CPA Randy Westby, who negotiated the Rugby building’s sale with Home of Economy, told the Tribune former Shopko buildings sit empty in several North Dakota communities.

Westby said of Home of Economy’s decision to locate a store in Rugby, “It was the best possible solution out there. Rugby’s very lucky to have them.”

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