By BROOKE WOLFORD
ATHOL — It doesn’t look like much now, but that giant field of dirt on the east side of U.S. 95 skirting Athol will transform into Super 1 Foods’ fifth store in Kootenai County, and the first of the Super 1 stores to sell hardware.
Vandervert Construction Inc. broke ground Tuesday to begin building the 57,000-square-foot store to house Super 1 and Ace Hardware.
Athol City Council members, contractors and locals all appeared on the site to witness the start of the new store’s construction.
More than one Athol resident expressed excitement for the future that Super 1 has in store for their small, rural town.
Athol City Council president Mary Zichko said this isn’t the first time Super 1 attempted to bring a store to the city, but it is the first success.
"Super 1 has tried three or four times before our council got them," Zichko said. "It was an older council and they didn’t want the growth. But we see that growth needs to come and we’re working on it."
Rich Davis, of Athol, said he’s heard rumors of a Super 1 opening in his town for 40 years. Now that it’s finally happening, he and other community members are optimistic it will strengthen Athol’s economy and bring more people to their community.
Mike Gilden, marketing director of Super 1 Foods, said the project is for the people.
"The key is what it brings to the community," he said.
Community members confirmed Super 1 will bring Athol a lot.
Zichko, who’s 72, said it will be easier for her and older residents to buy supplies in town, and Davis thought it would bring jobs, which will hopefully draw people from intermediate areas. Zichko also hoped younger people would want to stay in Athol since Super 1 will bring job opportunities for them.
"As things grow to full size I think it’ll be more of a commercial zone on the west and east side of the highway," Zichko said.
Although no one at the groundbreaking event had anything bad to say about the new store, Davis said he knows some community members would prefer to keep the area as it is.
Deborah Warner, a resident of Athol for 45 years, said the new highway made the intended location perfect for a Super 1. Warner said a bigger store in Athol should help boost its stagnant economy.
"There’s a sense of community in Athol and there are a lot of churches, but they don’t make money for the town here," Warner said.
John Fevold, of Athol, agreed the local economy is in need of stimulation. In his experience, small towns that don’t develop don’t last.
Fevold believes the new City Council has resurrected hope for Athol.
"The other part is that we have a good City Council finally," he said. "They’re progressive. It’s either do something or die. I lived in three small towns in North Dakota, and they’re all gone because they didn’t pay attention."