After weeks and weeks of no comment, referrals to other phone numbers — one of which went to someone who no longer works with the company (thankfully she did call back) and other phone numbers that never went to a living person — a Big Lots employee confirmed what most everyone guessed by now. The store is closing in Baxter.

There has been speculation Big Lots could open somewhere else in the community, but there isn’t confirmation of such a move at this time.

Customers who came through the door Friday expressed dismay at the store leaving the area.

In its wake, initial plans with the city of Baxter indicate Harbor Freight is the likely new tenant of the space in the Westgate Mall.

Harbor Freight Tools started in 1977. Its website notes it has more than 7,000 tools and accessories matching the quality of competitors but at prices up to 80% less. Harbor Freight states it buys direct from factories supplying the expensive brands and passes those savings on to its 40 million customers at more than 1,000 stores nationwide.

In a statement on the company’s website, CEO/President Eric Smidt stated the company is still family owned and continues its mission established three decades ago — providing quality tools at the lowest prices.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at