Columbia County officials say a newly announced outdoor retail store near Interstate 20 will be on the fast track to open this fall.
County Commission Chairman Ron Cross announced Friday that Minnesota-based Gander Mountain had selected a site on Mason McKnight Jr. Parkway, near Flowing Wells Road, for its next Georgia location.
“It is such a delight to deal with a company that knows what they want, says what they will do and follows through,” said Cross, taking a swipe at Bass Pro Shops, which made a similar announcement in July but later backed out of the deal. “I think this will be the initiative that will bring other stores and retailers to this fine property near I-20.”
John Engler, the vice president of McKnight Properties, said the company wants to start construction as quickly as possible and open “by Oct. 1, if not sooner.”
Officials said an official ground-breaking is set for March 5, though some site work might begin as early as next week.
“My only worry is keeping up with their (schedule),” Engler said.
Gander Mountain is the second large outdoor retail chain in the past seven months to announce plans for the Augusta area. Cabela’s Inc. is completing work on a 42,000-square-foot store in Richmond County next to Costco in the Village at Riverwatch near I-20, which will be the retailer’s first location in Georgia. The store is scheduled to open March 20 and will employ about 90 people.
The 52,000-square-foot Gander Mountain store will be just across the Columbia County line, anchoring one end of what Engler hopes to develop into a large mixed-use retail center with an additional 158,000 square feet of space for future tenants.
Engler said he is in negotiations with other retailers for those spaces but declined to provide details.
“Gander Mountain will be a perfect fit for our region, and this announcement is another confirmation that Columbia County continues to strive through public-private partnerships to bring the best to our citizens,” Cross said.
Unlike the Bass Pro Shops deal, Cross said no tax incentives or other inducements were offered to Gander Mountain. The only thing the county plans to do for the development is to move a sewer line to make way for construction, he said.
Gander Mountain generally does not seek incentives for its stores, according to company spokesman Jess Myers.
“It is very rare that we do that,” he said.
Myers said most Gander Mountain stores employ between 50 and 70 people, with seasonal fluctuations. Of those, about 20 are generally full-time positions, he said.
The store will be the fourth Gander Mountain location in Georgia, joining existing stores in Albany and Valdosta and a new store in McDonough set to open in the spring.
“We appreciate the warm welcome we have received in Augusta and look forward to our grand opening in the fall,” Eric Jacobsen, Gander Mountain’s executive vice president, said in a news release.
Gander Mountain, based in St. Paul, sells hunting, fishing, camping, marine and outdoor lifestyle products and services. It has 131 stores in 24 states.