WESTERLY — Harbor Freight Tools, a discount tool and equipment retailer with more than 1,000 locations nationwide, plans to open in the former Benny's building on Post Road next year.
Spokespeople for the company on Tuesday said preliminary plans call for an opening in January, but a certain date has not yet been set. The company recently began soliciting applications for a store manager position on the LinkedIn and Indeed websites as well as on its own website.
The company's stores generally open with 25 to 35 new jobs, said Craig Hoffman, director of corporate communications and content for Harbor Freight Tools.
The store sells a variety of equipment, including power and hand tools, lawn and garden equipment, automotive items and plumbing, welding and electrical equipment. According to its website, the company is able to offer items it sells at a discount because it purchases direct from manufacturers and conducts its own testing in its labs and factories.
The Calabasas, Calif.-based company started as a small family-owned business in 1977, according to the retailer's website. Two of the company's nearest stores are in New London and Fall River.
Local social media pages were alive with speculation about the former Benny's building recently when business people were observed walking in and around the building in recent weeks.
Lisa Konicki, Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce president, said word of Harbor Freight Tools' decision to come to Westerly was welcome.
"It’s very encouraging, particularly given the size and high visibility of the space and the present uncertainty in the economy. Much of our recent efforts have been focused on sustainability and developing strategies and promotions to support business survival. It’s exciting to learn of this bold, sizable new investment being made in our community," Konicki said.
Dan Lathrop, chairman of the municipal Economic Development Commission, said he was pleased to learn the high-profile storefront would be filled.
The beloved Benny's closed all of its stores in 2017 after 93 years of operation. Some of the Benny's properties, including the one in Westerly, were acquired by the Carpionato Group in a deal that went into effect in 2018. The Westerly Benny's location at 248 Post Road sat vacant for a time, and then was occupied by a car dealership that stored vehicles in its parking lot. That use ended, and the property was again vacant.
The Cranston-based Carpionato Group owns the Westerly Crossings Shopping Center and other property in the town. It retains ownership of 248 Post Road, according to town records.