The former Sears store Tuesday in the Turnpike Mall in Augusta. Harbor Freight Tools and Hobby Lobby are looking to move into different parts of the large retail space off Western Avenue. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Two national retail chains are eyeing an Augusta location for future stores.

Documents on file at the city of Augusta indicate that both Hobby Lobby and Harbor Freight Tools are interested in the former Sears building at the Turnpike Mall off of Western Avenue.

“We’re enthusiastic about new businesses coming to Augusta,” Keith Luke, Augusta’s economic development director,” said.

An architectural firm based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has submitted plans to Augusta city officials detailing a proposed Hobby Lobby store to occupy about 43,000 square feet of the former Sears building.

The Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts supply retailer has more than 900 stores in 47 states, including three in Maine — Auburn, Bangor and Waterville. In the last two months alone, Hobby Lobby has opened six new stores. The most recent openings are in Cape Coral, Florida, and Jackson, Michigan, according to the company’s website.

Hobby Lobby, which announced it was raising its minimum full-time hourly wage to $18.50 effective Jan. 1, did not return a request for comment.


Harbor Freight Tools, which has Maine stores in Auburn, Bangor, Presque Isle, Rockland, South Portland and Waterville, operates more than 1,300 nationwide that sell tools, welding supplies and generators.

Company representatives have obtained a building permit from the city of Augusta for interior improvements for another portion of the Sears space to build out a retail space.

The privately owned California-based company did not return a request for comment, but its website states its real estate department is considering “hundreds of locations” across the country, and it details the specifications it seeks, including a space that offers 15,000 to 16,500 square feet and is visible from the street.

If the plans go forward, it will end speculation about what would replace Sears in Turnpike Mall.

The Turnpike Mall in Augusta. Harbor Freight Tools and Hobby Lobby could be the next businesses to move into the strip mall off Western Avenue. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In January 2017, the parent company of Sears and Kmart announced its Augusta Sears store would close in March, one of 42 closures announced at that time. A little more than two years later, the company announced that Kmarts in Augusta and Auburn would close by the end of that year.

Recently, following a zoning change request to allow it, a developer of self-storage facilities has proposed to convert the former Kmart into a climate-controlled storage facility. Patriot Holdings, based in Las Vegas, operates 45 self-storage facilities in New England under the All-Purpose Storage name.


Self-storage companies have been making use of vacant big-box stores as the business of storing people’s belongings outside the home has expanded.

That’s just one option for reusing large retail spaces that come with generous parking and few strings like historic designations or neighbors who might oppose a new development.

In this case, though, retailers are making use of established retail space that has stood vacant for five years.

Luke said the probable addition of these new stores, in addition to the improvements and investments being made at other retail plazas on Western Avenue like the Capitol Shopping Center where Shaw’s supermarket is located, are exciting to see.

‘They are all becoming reactivated and reenergized, and it’s good news for the city,” he said.

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