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Tractor Supply eyes Middlebury for new store

MIDDLEBURY — Tractor Supply, which bills itself as “the largest operator of rural lifestyle stores in the United States,” is proposing to build a 19,000-square-foot store off Foote Street in Middlebury, on a 6.5-acre parcel located behind the A&W Restaurant.
The Middlebury Development Review Board is scheduled to take an initial look at the plan at its Aug. 28 meeting, according to Town Planner Jennifer Murray. Retail stores are allowed as a conditional use in Middlebury’s Protected Highway District. If the Tractor Supply store earns local approval, it would then move on to Act 250 review, Murray noted.
Frank S. Alexander, Jr. is a project director for Primax Properties LLC, which is pursuing the project on behalf of Tractor Supply. During a phone interview on Monday, Alexander said the new building will be a single-story structure that will be in keeping with the town’s aesthetic tastes. Middlebury has over the years crafted development rules that discourage franchise prototype architecture.
As the Addison Independent went to press, Tractor Supply was still working on the design for its Middlebury store.
“Everyone wants to see something that fits the ‘Vermont look,’” Alexander said. “(Our building) will look almost like something you would see on a farm.”
The new Tractor Supply would have 75 parking spaces, a number that Alexander believes should be more than enough. He said the typical Tractor Supply customer tends to know exactly what he or she wants, thereby contributing to a quick turnover in parking spaces.
“Tractor Supply is not a big traffic generator,” Alexander said.
Rollason Properties LLC owns the land on which the Tractor Supply would be built. It would be subdivided from a larger parcel of Rollason property — a sweeping field behind the A&W and Magic Wok Restaurants that can be seen from Route 7.
Alexander said the Tractor Supply project would encompass only around 4.5 acres of the 6.5 acres it is seeking to acquire, due to wetlands and other factors.
“It’s kind of jigsaw-shaped,” he said of the parcel.
Headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., Tractor Supply operates more than 1,600 retail stores in 49 states. There are currently six Tractor Supply stores in Vermont, including in Bennington, Derby, Montpelier, North Clarendon, Shelburne and St. Albans.
The company was founded in 1938 as a mail order catalog business offering tractor parts to America’s family farmers. But today, Tractor Supply offers what its website describes as “unique products to support their customers’ rural lifestyle,” including clothing, footwear, pet supplies, trailers and accessories, lawn and garden supplies, propane and heating supplies, tools, gun safes, fencing, welders and welding supplies, lawn mowers and power generators.
Locally, Alexander cited Agway as a similar store to Tractor Supply. But he said Tractor Supply has not branched out into “green space” products — like flowers — as Agway has done.
“There is some product overlap” between the two stores, Alexander acknowledged, though he expects there will be enough business for both Agway and Tractor Supply to do well.
“I think at the end of the day everyone will do quite well,” Alexander said.
Tractor Supply does around $6.8 billion in sales each year, according to its website. The company locates its stores mainly in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities. The typical Tractor Supply store has about 15,500 square feet of selling space inside, with a similar amount of outside space, according to a corporate narrative.
Traditional Tractor Supply clients, according to the company, include farmers, horse owners, ranchers, part-time and hobby farmers, suburban and rural homeowners, and contractors and tradesmen.
Alexander hopes construction on the new Middlebury store can begin next spring, with an August/September 2018 opening. He believes the Middlebury Tractor Supply will employ around 12 full-and-part-time workers.
“Tractor Supply is excited to be coming to town,” Alexander said. “I think it’s a great market. Everyone has been very welcoming.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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