BargainMart helping breathe new life into shopping center

April 15, 2013
photo - An Angry Birds plush sits atop an air mover at the new BargainMart store at the Rustic Hills Shopping Center. Thursday, April 4, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) Photo by JERILEE BENNETT,  THE GAZETTE
An Angry Birds plush sits atop an air mover at the new BargainMart store at the Rustic Hills Shopping Center. Thursday, April 4, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE 

BargainMart, which sells salvage merchandise it buys from national retailers, has launched a second location in Colorado Springs — an expansion that could help pump life into a troubled retail center.

A 31,000-square-foot BargainMart opened last month in the former T.J. Maxx space at the Rustic Hills Shopping Center, southeast of Academy and Palmer Park boulevards.

BargainMart will continue to operate its store at Academy and Hancock Expressway, in the Mission Trace Shopping Center on the city’s southeast side, said owner Jim Krug. That store is 14,000 square feet, with an additional 8,000-square-foot clothing department accessible via a separate entrance in the same building.

Among other items, BargainMart sells food, clothing, appliances, furniture, toys and over-the-counter medicines — a host of merchandise obtained from well-known retail chains that are getting rid of the products for a variety of reasons.

Food items might include non-perishable products pulled off shelves by retailers in the weeks or months before their expiration or “best by” dates, Krug said.

Other retailers might decide to get rid of racks of clothing, while furniture might include floor models or pieces slightly damaged in shipping, he said. Retailers also sell items purchased and taken home by their customers who then return them because the clothing didn’t fit or they didn’t like the way an appliance worked.

Krug said he was running out of space at his Academy and Hancock location, and wanted a second store to expand his business.

“This location (Rustic Hills Shopping Center) just happened to hit just right for me to do all the stuff we wanted to do,” Krug said. “We’re running out of space. I’ve got so much opportunity to get new inventory. And this space had it all.”

The T.J. Maxx store had dressing rooms for customers, while the shopping center offered a large parking lot, a central location and a favorable lease rate, Krug said.

With the additional space in the second store, Krug said he plans to add a snack bar in early May that will sell cold sandwiches, hot dogs, salads and desserts such as Blue Bell ice cream and cake.

“A lot of our customers are people that are financially pressed,” he said. “A lot of them have kids. It’s just so expensive for them to go out for treats for kids. … We want people to basically be able to have some bright spots in life without having to go into their pockets so deep.”

Krug started BargainMart in 2005 in the former 4,000 square-foot Race Car Museum in Manitou Springs and moved the next year to the Red Rocks Shopping Center on Colorado Springs’ west side. In 2010, he opened his Mission Trace store; he closed the Red Rocks location in 2011.

BargainMart is just one sign of new life for Rustic Hills, an aging, 1960s-era shopping center that lost its anchors over the last several years as tenants fled to newer centers in fast-growing parts of town or areas with higher household incomes.

The shopping center fell into foreclosure in 2011, was purchased by a Miami group and then re-sold in August for $5.1 million to a Texas-based limited liability company headed by Houston ophthalmologist Dr. Milton Boniuk.

Boniuk, who said he’s invested on the side in real estate projects over many years, said Gold’s Gym is moving into the 45,000-square-foot space vacated last year by Sports Authority; the facility, to be operated by corporate owners of Gold Gym’s, is expected to open in October after a remodeling of the space, he said.

Boniuk said he’s also negotiating with other tenants, although he declined to identify them.
Boniuk has a home in the Springs and owns a southwest side building that houses the Flatirons Restaurant. He said he liked Rustic Hills’ potential — it’s centrally located, has a large parking lot and access from both Academy and Palmer Park boulevards.

He said he’s invested more than $1 million into resurfacing Rustic Hills’ parking lot, painting the exterior and making other repairs.

“It’s a great property,” Boniuk said. “And if you drive through it now, you’ll appreciate how nice it is compared to what it was.”

Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228 Twitter @richladen
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