The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 20, 2013

Mapleton hardware - operated by Jim Heins and Steve Breiter - to reopen

Farmer/businessman plans diverse but ag-themed store

A Mapleton-area farmer and businessman is planning to go into the hardware business, reopening a key retail spot on the city's Main Street that's been vacant for more than a year.

"This is a huge building on Main Street," said Mapleton Mayor James Swanson, who predicted "a big ripple effect on other businesses" in town. "People will say, 'As long as I'm here to get some nuts and bolts, we might as well get some bread and milk."

And there will be a lot more than nuts and bolts under Jim Heins' plans for the 10,000-square-foot building that was run by Lorena Fron for many years before being sold to an Owatonna man who had to close it in October of 2012 due to health reasons. Heins purchased the building a year later, has already hired a store manager in Steve Breiter and is in the process of a wholesale updating of the building in preparation for a mid-March opening.

Beyond standard hardware, Mapleton Farm and Home will offer lawn and garden supplies, housewares, automotive parts and supplies, a wide selection of the varied stuff required to keep a farm running, equine supplies and — if Breiter has his way — bicycles in the summer months. The latter is somewhat of a tribute to Lorena Fron, who ran the store well past retirement age.

"Everybody who owned a bike in town, it came from Fron's," Breiter said.

The store also will offer small engine repair and equipment rental — everything from a sander to a post-hole digger to possibly a backhoe. All of the above is available in Mankato, which is a mere 16 miles north of the town of 1,800. But Heins and Breiter expect the store will draw customers from a radius of 12 to 15 miles, including folks to the north who will enjoy the lack of traffic and the easy parking that comes with shopping in Mapleton.

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