Prosser's Chukar Cherries concerned about new hardware store

PROSSER -- The possible addition of an Ace Hardware and sporting goods store in Prosser have Chukar Cherries concerned that the store could keep the business from expanding.

Chukar Cherries founder Pam Montgomery told Port of Benton commissioners on Wednesday that bringing Ace Hardware to port property would mean the gourmet gift company would need to move elsewhere.

The Grigg family is considering opening its fifth store in Prosser.

Charlie Grigg, son of Grigg's Department Store and Ace Hardware owner Charles Grigg, told the Herald if they decide to open a Prosser store, it would be similar to the recently opened Kennewick Ace Hardware, with a mix of hardware and sporting goods. They try to match stores to community demand, so more farm supplies may be added.

One of the sites Charlie Grigg said they are considering is port property off Hagarty Lane near Chukar Cherries.

Nothing has been signed, and Grigg said they still are looking at the costs and Prosser's need for their services.

If the project is approved, Grigg said, they would probably add 25 part-time and full-time jobs.

"We would be great neighbors," he said.

Scott Keller, the port's executive director, told the Herald that Chukar Cherries would have room to expand even if a hardware store is built.

"We are trying to work with them as best we can," he said.

A port drawing showed room for a 7,000-sqaure-foot expansion of Chukar Cherries' current building and space for an additional 10,000-square-foot building.

Chukar Cherries started on about 9,000 square feet of port property off Wine Country and Nunn roads in 1988.

The company specializes in dried cherries, chocolate-covered cherries and other fruit, as well as other products, such as cherry-related sauces, syrups and salsas. The production and retail facilities currently are crammed into 16,000 square feet.

Montgomery's husband, JT, told commissioners the business will need to add space in 2013 if this year goes as expected.

He said they need a partnership they can depend on for the next 20 years and enough time to plan expansions.

Pam Montgomery told the Herald the company would need more space than the port thinks, and there would not be enough space for parking. It also is likely other companies in the area will need space to expand.

The light industrial area just isn't right for a retail hardware store, she said. While Chukar Cherries has a retail store on the property, she said it doesn't generate high-level traffic like a hardware store would.

"We are just asking to be heard," she said.

Also Wednesday:

* Port commissioners unanimously approved buying SAIC's building in Richland.

The cost of the building at 3250 Port of Benton Boulevard was dropped from $1 million to $950,000 because SAIC, which stands for Science Applications International Corp., would like to stay in the north end of the building until Aug. 31, 2013, said Tom Cowan, the port's attorney.

The port plans to remodel the north end for its own offices instead of building a new office from scratch. And it will lease the south end to other businesses.

The south end of the building will be vacant, so the port can start work on improving that area, said Diahann Howard, the port's director of economic development and governmental affairs.

There is a demand for office space, Howard said. The port already has received calls from businesses interested in the offices when it's available.

The goal is to have the sale closed by the end of the month, officials said.