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Biz Buzz: June 1 Gull Lake Glass expands to Brainerd

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Gull Lake Glass is opening an auto glass location in the former Riverside Auto site on Washington Street in Brainerd.

The site is near Riverside Elementary School across from Walgreens.

Gull Lake Glass owner Nate Tuomi started his business in his dad’s garage in East Gull Lake. He was 17. Four years later, he was ready to expand. The business grew on rapport with customers and word-of-mouth. Tuomi moved his business to Highway 371 North. He now employs 11 and expects to add two, maybe three workers with the expansion to Brainerd.

While the Washington Street site will specialize in auto glass repair, it will also serve as a drop-off point so customers won’t have to drive the five miles to reach the Highway 371 location. Gull Lake Glass also offers mobile services. But Tuomi said many vehicles benefit from completing the installation in a controlled environment.

Gull Lake Glass offers services for auto, home, automatic doors and commercial projects. Tuomi said they work on everything from big projects like The Bodyworks center in Baxter to 50-cent jobs.

Tuomi said his business grew every year and held its own during the recession, allowing him to keep all his employees.

While he wasn’t a student who planned to go on for higher education, Tuomi said he was willing to work and then he hired key people.

He credited “great employees” and a focus on customer service for his success.

“Brainerd is a great area,” Tuomi said. “It’s got its own unique customer base. You are friends with just about everybody you work with.”

Costco completed its land purchase in Baxter along Elder Drive by Home Depot and has its building permit to start construction of a warehouse store. Expectations are for earth-moving equipment any day.

Costco engineers were recently in Baxter. Plans continue for a fall store opening with sources noting Costco can have a store completed in 90 to 100 days. According to land records Costco bought the land for $4.2 million.

The entire parcel was recently owned by JRMinn and then ownership transferred to Michael Holdings for $5.5 million, with Costco taking most of the parcel. Costco declined to comment.

Discount Tires is expected to start building soon as well. The store purchased land next to J.C. Penney just off Glory Road in Baxter. The site is heavily wooded now with a stand including of oak and Norway pine. Discount Tire reported a lot of the green space will remain and the company prides itself on its landscaping. The store, about 7,000 square feet, is expected to open by November and provide jobs for 10 to 12 people. It will be the 27th store in the region. The chain is now up to about 830 stores.

Olive Garden continues to slowly take shape in Baxter by J.C. Penney, just off Highway 371.

Grab-a-Java is expanding into the Westgate Mall in the former Sears Portrait Studio spot inside the mall.

A Northland Arboretum expansion plan is circling in the area and is expected to be before the Baxter City Council for a letter of support on Tuesday.

At Big Lot’s May 25 opening, Mike Kyler, district manager, presented a $2,500 check to Baxter Elementary School Principal Steve Lundberg.

Lundberg said the money may be used for technology in the school such as iPads or iPod Touches that children enjoy using for education.

Big Lots employs about 30,000 with 42 workers hired for the Baxter store.

Jared Schwindel made the transition from Maple Grove to manage the Baxter store. He said job applications for the store numbered 500. Schwindel said he conducted more interviews in Baxter than he has ever done previously. The draw of people may have been increased as both Big Lots and Dunham’s Sports were accepting applications at the same time.

Schwindel described the inventory as a little bit of everything except milk or frozen foods.

Big Lots carries close-out items and name brands.

At the opening ceremony, Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson told the crowd gathered for the opening that the addition of the store was a welcome and exciting redevelopment of the city, including work nearby on the Lakes 12 theater.

Dunham’s Sports opened Friday in Baxter with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Our market research has indicated that the Baxter area fits perfectly into Dunham’s growth strategy and we are excited about our continued expansion in the state of Minnesota,” said Jeff Lynn, chairman and chief executive officer of Dunham’s Athleisure Corp., in a news release.

Dunham’s describes itself as carrying a “wide variety of top-quality, value oriented, name-brand merchandise at everyday low prices. Every store offers a full line of traditional sporting goods and athletic equipment as well as a wide variety of active and casual sports apparel and footwear.”

“We keep our customers coming back because of our continued commitment to provide the largest selections at the lowest prices,” Lynn said, adding the latest store opening “will be tailored to the Baxter market with a larger selection of athletic and outdoor apparel, expanded hunting and fitness departments, plus a large value area featuring footwear at savings of 30-50 percent off. The store will also have a new Fairway Center golf shop featuring all the top golf brands such as Taylormade, Nike, Callaway” among others.

Dunham’s was founded in 1937 in Detroit as Dunham’s Bait and Tackle. Now the retailer said it is the Midwest’s largest retail sporting goods chain growing to more than 50 stores in 14 Midwestern states. The store in Baxter employs 26 and is still hiring.

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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