Discount tools chain eyeing Port Elizabeth Centre site
By William F. West
Sunday, November 26, 2017
A Southern California-based discount tool and equipment retail chain is apparently eyeing the former Walmart site for a possible store in Elizabeth City.
Harbor Freight Tools has submitted plans for a store that will use roughly 15,000 square feet in the former Walmart building at Port Elizabeth Centre, City Manager Rich Olson said recently in a weekly memo to the mayor and city councilors.
According to Olson, Harbor Freight Tools is proposing to have an open-style floor in the former Walmart building, mostly for displays and sales. Harbor Freight Tools sells air tools, chainsaws, small electric motors, small gasoline-powered motors, generators, hand tools, power tools, tool chests and welding equipment.
Olson said Harbor Freight Tools plans to install a new main entrance to the building that will face east toward the Port Elizabeth Centre parking lot. The company also plans to install a new roll-up style door on the building’s north side.
A representative of Harbor Freight Tools couldn’t be immediately reached for further details late last week.
Currently, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aviation Logistics Center at Base Elizabeth City is using the former Walmart site for storage. It’s not clear how Harbor Freight Tools’ interest in the building might affect that use.
Los Angeles-based BH Properties owns the shopping center. Walmart moved out of Port Elizabeth Centre to its site next to the Shoppes at Tanglewood in 2007.
Harbor Freight Tools first opened a retail store in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1980 to sell returned merchandise from the company’s mail order business. The store was so successful the company began opening stores nationwide. According to a story in Forbes Magazine, Harbor Freight Tools now has more than 800 locations and employs 20,000 workers in 47 states.
Although the Elizabeth City store would be Harbor Freight Tools’ first venture in the Albemarle, the company already has two stores in Virginia’s Hampton Roads area. One is just off the Interstate 264-Military Highway interchange in Norfolk; the other is at the intersection of Holland Road and Lynnhaven Parkway in Virginia Beach.
Harbor Freight Tools also has started a massive expansion of an already twice-expanded East Coast distribution center in Dillon County, South Carolina.
According to published reports, the company plans a one million-square-foot expansion of the facility at the Carolinas I-95 Mega Site, an industrial center approximately 10 miles from the North Carolina-South Carolina border. The expansion, which is expected to be complete by early 2019, is projected to result in a 3 million-square-foot facility and create at least 500 new jobs. The company already employs 650 at the facility. Harbor Freight Tools has had a regional distribution center in South Carolina since 2001.