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Home, farm, outdoor retailer buys former Kmart site

Photo by Kathryn Ross

National retailer Runnings has purchased the 94,000-square-foot former Kmart building in the Riverwalk Plaza with plans to open a new store in 2023


By KATHRYN ROSS

WELLSVILLE — For several months, Wellsville Mayor Randy Shayler kept it under his hat and his fingers crossed after he learned the owner of Riverwalk Plaza was in negotiations with Runnings.

The mayor learned the possibility of the home, farm and outdoor store coming into the village in the first part of the new year, shortly after the purchase and planned renovation of the Erie Depot was announced.

In March, Shayler said, after the announcement of Quicklees and the new Walgreen facility, “I think retailers are beginning to recognize the unique position Wellsville is in. For about a 50-mile radius around us there is very little competition. Kmart did very well here, ours was a victim of failure at the top level, not on the local level and I think we’ll see some recognition of that of our position.”

District IV County Legislator Steve Heavy was manager of the local Kmart before retiring and going into public service. Uniquely familiar with the Wellsville property and the overall success of the store here, he said, “I’m delighted that Runnings is here. It is not easy to fill a nearly 100,000-square-foot building. They have a lot of what the people around here need — farming and garden supplies and clothing. There isn’t anything like them around in Steuben or Cattaraugus counties and I think they are a good fit.”

He went on to say that he believes Runnings will draw customers from the same area as did Kmart. “We drew a lot of customers from Pennsylvania, and I think Runnings will too. It is a unique operation that I believe will become a destination for customers.”

Runnings, headquartered in Marshall, Minn., announced June 21 that it will open its 11th store in New York state at the location of the former Kmart store in Wellsville. The site at Riverwalk Plaza has been vacant since 2018.

Brad Whitford, president of the L.C. Whitford Company which owns Riverwalk Plaza said, “As we looked at our plans for the plaza, we felt that an important piece of the expansion was finding a strong retail partner for the building, We’re very excited to finally have Runnings on board. It will be a momentous thing for Wellsville.”

Founded in 1947, Runnings is a privately held general merchandise retailer owned by the Dennis and Adele Reed Family and has a long-standing history of purchasing vacant retail stores and renovating them to serve the needs of new customers. The company currently has 57 stores and employs more than 2,700 workers across seven states. The new Wellsville store is expected to employ 40 people and open next year after the facility has been renovated.

Locals on the street see the new store as a “good fit” for Wellsville and are looking forward to not having to travel out of town to purchase quality clothing and special items.

Runnings sells an extensive selection of sporting goods, clothing, footwear, pet supplies, housewares, tools, farm supplies, lawn and garden supplies, toys, and outdoor equipment.