Hobby Lobby to move into vacant Rainbow Foods building

Hobby Lobby will take over the empty Rainbow Foods building at 1660 S. Robert St. in West St. Paul.

After sitting vacant for roughly two years, the old Rainbow Foods location in West St. Paul has a taker. Hobby Lobby is moving into the South Robert Street building.

Jim Hartshorn, West St. Paul community development director, said the city told Hobby Lobby they were interested in them moving into the 63,000 square-foot building about a year and a half ago.

Hartshorn said a variety of potential businesses were looked at for the area.

“We’ve had a lot of people ask us about a Kohl’s or other department stores, and then Hobby Lobby always came up, artshorn said.

Kohl’s did visit the building, but Hartshorn said that type of department store is having a tough time right now.

Hobby Lobby was looking to expand and the city thought they d be a good fit for not only the building, he said, but the area and West St. Paul as well.

Since reaching out to the company, Hartshorn said there was a lot of back and forth until he received formal word that a lease agreement had been signed.

Since, Hobby Lobby has come in for permits to remodel the interior of the building.

“I’ll feel more secure about it when they re in the building,” Hartshorn said.

Bob Miller, communication coordinator for Hobby Lobby, said that judging from the response the company has received in its other Minnesota stores -- there are eight around the state -- the company is anticipating customers will be pleased with what the store has to offer.

“We have had our eye on West St. Paul for a while and we look forward to getting the doors open and becoming a part of the community,” Miller said.


‘A good deal for everybody’

Hartshorn said the city is always looking for economic generators, which are the types of businesses that bring people to the downtown and make other businesses do well. Hopefully, he said, it makes other businesses want to move in as well.

“It creates more foot traffic for everybody,” Hartshorn said. “It s a good deal for everybody.”

Hartshorn said that since word broke about Hobby Lobby coming to town he has had calls from a few different developers looking at opportunities in West St. Paul. He said these developers know Hobby Lobby does good market studies and are basing their thoughts of the city off the research the company has done.

The city doesn t want vacant, larger buildings sitting on Robert Street for too long, Hartshorn said, adding the vacancies don’t generate a lot of value, making the area look bad and rundown.

Hartshorn said it also says a lot about West St. Paul that Hobby Lobby was interested. He said the company turns down more cities than it moves into.

Mayor Dave Meisinger said it’s great to have a national chain showing interest in the city again.

A priority of West. St. Paul’s Economic Development Authority and council is to bring in businesses the city does not have, Hartshorn said, adding Hobby Lobby will fill a niche the city does not have.

Meisinger said making up for the loss of Rainbow business with the inclusion of Hobby Lobby is great for the city as well as future employees, hopefully many of them from West St. Paul.


Facebook reacts

“The more variety you can give people the more you can keep them in town,” Hartshorn said. “It’s good to be able to deliver what people are asking for.”

The news of Hobby Lobby moving in was met with mixed reactions from people on the West St. Paul Neighborhood Facebook page. 

One member of the group commented, “Regardless how you feel about the company’s policy, we as a city are attracting new businesses and that in itself is huge.”

Many users expressed their wish the space was filled by Kohl’s, something many residents have been wanting for along time.

Others voiced their opposition to the business moving in because of its religious and political views -- Hobby Lobby ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 because of its opposition to paying for contraception for its employees under the Affordable Care Act. 

One Facebooker commented, “another right wing religious zealot owned business in WSP.”

Another user, ignoring both politics and city economics, commented,  “I love Hobby Lobby, love to hear this news.”

The company has yet to announce the date of a grand opening.


Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.


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