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Work begins on shopping center expansion

Boldt Construction workers put in footings for one of the new buildings north of Premiere Theatres Friday after rain delayed efforts earlier in the week. When workers finish with the 3,800 addition to The Premiere Center, the shopping center will have added extra office and storage space for the theater, plus new premises for both A Le Salon and Vision Pro. Jana Peterson/

Opening a shopping center five years ago -- as the country's economy began to nosedive -- might have failed in some places. In Cloquet it worked so well that The Premiere Center is expanding.

"I think it's a tribute to Cloquet that after five years, we have a 100 percent renewal rate on all the tenants, plus an expansion, plus a new tenant," said Rick Stowell, owner of Premiere Theatres and the shopping center it anchors off Highway 33. "If you look at shopping centers around the area, there's always space for lease.

"I've had two calls in the past two months. I wish I'd known before [we started the project]," he added, only half kidding.

The expansion is a game of moving pieces.

Boldt Construction workers broke ground north of the theater two weeks ago. When they finish with the 3,800 addition, the shopping center will have added extra office and storage space for the theater, plus new premises for both A Lé Salon and Vision Pro. When Vision Pro moves, Anytime Fitness will expand into the current Vision Pro space. In the meantime, A Lé Salon closed temporarily so State Farm could move in to its spot, and Southgate Pizza has a new owner (Cloquet native Kurt Wuollet) with lots of new ideas.

Neither Cold One Liquor nor the movie theater's public spaces are changing their footprint, although both have remodeled in the past year or so.

"It's remarkable that all those pieces could fall into place," Stowell said. "A Lé Salon had to agree to close so State Farm could move in the necessary date; Vision Pro was perfectly happy where they were but agreed to help out Anytime Fitness and the shopping center by moving."

Following is a brief summary of the changes to the shopping center:

- Southgate Pizza already changed hands. Wuollet purchased the business from Jody Hall and took over April 1. Wuollet has already added pizza by the slice and ice cream, with many more changes coming soon.

- State Farm Insurance Lenny Conklin Agency (replacing Dan Anderson) opened May 1 in the remodeled A Lé Salon space.

- The first space to the north of the theater will be additional theater office/storage space.

- The second space heading north will be A Lé Salon, which is increasing from 1,000 square feet to 1,300 square feet and will include more beautician stations as well as a tanning bed. A Lé Salon is targeted to reopen in July.

- The third and last space will be for Vision Pro, which is relocating from its existing location sometime in August.

- Anytime Fitness will expand into the current Vision Pro space -- resulting in a 40 percent increase in their space -- and that expansion should wrap up sometime in September.

Parking won't expand, but that's OK, Stowell said. Between the daytime businesses, the theater and the 24/7 fitness center, it all works out.

"Parking needs for the theater are nights and weekends," he said. "That isn't an issue for the other businesses."