Heins, a rural Vernon Center farmer who farms more than 9,500 acres of land, already owns a number of local ag-related businesses, including the Mapleton Elevator. City officials pointed to his use of a government-backed loan to help finance the renovation of that deteriorated facility (including eliminating its rodent problem) in recommending approval of another low-interest loan for the hardware store.
"It is now a beautiful state-of-the-art facility," stated a summary from the Mapleton Economic Development Authority that was supplied to the Blue Earth County Board.
Heins paid off the elevator loan last year, a loan that was also provided through Blue Earth County's Small Cities Loan program.
The board Tuesday unanimously approved the latest $75,000 low-interest loan, which is guaranteed equally by the county and the city of Mapleton, to be used for the renovation of the hardware store.
"It's hard to keep a small hardware store open," said Commissioner Will Purvis of Vernon Center. "... But with the focus on larger farming items, there's a real need for that in the area."
Breiter told the board that Heins would be putting $300,000 or more into the building to prepare for opening, later telling The Free Press that improvements cover everything from a new furnace to new wiring to new plumbing.
The structure itself is literally rock solid, though, according to Breiter, who noted its use in the second half of the last century.
"It was a certified bomb shelter," he said.
In four months, sitting next to the town's supermarket, the store will be an anchor of the local economy, Breiter predicts.
"That block will certainly be a powerhouse for business," he said.
And Mapleton residents are clearly looking forward to having their hardware store back.
"The community support has been overwhelming to say the least," Breiter said. "People want this store pretty bad."