Harbor Freight announces opening date in Merced

03/14/2014 6:00 PM

03/14/2014 8:52 PM

Harbor Freight Tools will open its doors March 25 in Merced, another sign of an improving economy in town.

The seller of industrial tools and supplies is expected to employ about 40 people when the 12,198-square-foot building’s doors are unlocked 1330 W. Olive Ave.

“We are very excited to be opening the 61st Harbor Freight Tools store in California and look forward to being a member of the Merced community,” said Harbor Freight President Eric Smidt in a press release.

The store plans a grand opening celebration on April 9, when it will offer discounts. This week, a crew inside the store was setting up the aisles and racks that will be covered in merchandise later this month.

The Calabasas-based company was founded in 1977 and has more than 475 stores nationwide. Harbor Freight stocks automotive and shop equipment, as well as air, power and hand tools.

Merced City Manager John Bramble said Harbor Freight is a relatively unusual type of store for Merced because it is not necessarily aimed at professional contractors. “What it really appeals to is the do-it-yourselfer,” he said. “It definitely is a step in a different direction.”

In February, building owner Dion Campisi said Harbor Freight would be “a good fit” in the location, which is surrounded by Food Maxx, Subway and Hobby Lobby, to name a few businesses.

The tool shop is the latest in retail stores and restaurants to open in Merced.

Earlier this month, Chipotle Mexican Grill opened a 2,000-square-foot eatery on R Street near W. Olive Avenue and employs about 30 people. Two doors over is the 4,200-square-foot Panera Bread, which hired about 50 workers and opened in February.

Area experts and officials have been saying for several months that the economy in Merced is on its way up, though at a slower pace than other regions of the state. An increase in building activity and sales tax, as well as a decline in unemployment, are in the forecast for much of the state.

Bramble said the recent arrivals of Harbor Freight, Chipotle and Panera could open doors to other opportunities otherwise unseen. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.

Merced Economic Development Director Frank Quintero is at a commercial and retail conference in Monterey this week to meet with developers and drum up interest in Merced.

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