Mills Fleet Farm has taken its first official steps toward opening a store in Cambridge.
Stewart C. Mills, Jr., co-owner of Mills Fleet Farm, and Bruce Buxton, project engineer for Mills Fleet Farm, appeared before the Cambridge Planning Commission Sept. 5 seeking approval of several action items to allow them to open a store in the former Lowe’s building, located on the east side of Cambridge.
Following discussion, the planning commission approved the preliminary and final plats for Mills Fleet Farm, a request to vacate a portion of drainage and utility easements, a conditional use permit request and a sign variance request.
The action now goes before the Cambridge City Council for consideration of final approval at its Sept. 17 meeting.
Buxton explained Mills Fleet Farm is looking at remodeling the existing Lowe’s facility. He noted the east side of the building will be remodeled for the auto service station.
“This won’t be a typical Fleet Farm store because it will be a little smaller, but will have all the typical Fleet Farm merchandise that our other stores have,” Buxton said. “Functionally it will be the same building as Lowe’s, but it will look considerably different on the outside.”
Fleet Farm will also purchase an additional five acres to the north of the existing property for an open yard merchandise sales floor. Additional land will be purchased south of the property for a convenience store and fuel station, and an automated car wash. The store isn’t expected to open until next year.
The convenience store will offer all the typical convenience store items. The gas station will feature unleaded, mid-grade, premium and diesel fuel, as well as bulk kerosene and non-oxy fuel.
The car wash will feature four automatic – self serve car wash bays with touchless and softgloss options, as well as vacuums, air services and trash disposals. Buxton noted the car wash will use as much recycled water as possible.
Buxton explained Fleet Farm will rebuild the existing Lowe’s sign to include signage for Fleet Farm and its Gas Mart and Car Wash, as well as for other tenants such as Kohl’s and Aldi that will be located in the general area. The sign will also include a reader board that will advertise Fleet Farm specials, as well as community events.
Mills, Jr. is excited about opening a Fleet Farm store in Cambridge.
“Fleet Farm is not a public company, but a family-owned private company that is currently owned by myself and my twin brother,” Mills, Jr. said. “When my father came back from the war he had no money and went to the First National Bank in Brainerd for a loan to buy a car dealership. He got his money and his word was his bond. That’s the way our father started this business. Hank and I inherited the business and his integrity—your word is your bond. We’ve always paid all our bills on time and we always do business on top of the table. That’s what you can expect from us here. We thank you for your consideration in allowing us to open a store in Cambridge. We will be successful and we don’t accept anything less than success.”
Planning Commission Member Bob Shogren noted, “this is quite the event,” with Planning Commission Chair Jim Godrey adding, “Fleet Farm has been the talk of the town.”
Cambridge resident Gary Peterson said Cambridge is lucky to have Fleet Farm coming to town.
“I’ve been in town since 1974 and owned a fleet supply company before selling it,” Peterson noted. “You’re lucky to have someone with such integrity coming here—they do everything the right way. Even though we’ve been friendly competition in the past, we have been part of a national organization together. Everything they do is something that makes sense—ethically and correctly.”
Mills Fleet Farm has been serving the Upper Midwest since 1955 and has 32 locations across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota, with it most recent store opening in Carver, Minn.
The store offers a wide variety of fishing, hunting, lawn and garden, auto and ATV, sporting goods, clothing and footwear, farm, pet and home supplies.