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A shopper enters the Blain’s Farm & Fleet Janesville store in October. Janesville-based Farm & Fleet announced Tuesday it plans to expand its retail footprint into Michigan, opening two new stores there by mid-2018.     

JANESVILLE

Blain’s Farm & Fleet has announced it’s expanding into Michigan.

Farm & Fleet said in a release Tuesday it is working on two development deals to open new stores in the Kalamazoo collar community of Portage, Michigan, and another in Jackson, Michigan.

The Janesville company said that it has identified “prime locations” throughout Michigan and that the Jackson and Portage stores would be the first two of multiple stores Farm & Fleet could launch in Michigan.

The stores could be built and opened by fall 2018, according to the release.

Farm & Fleet said it chose Michigan for expansion because it’s had a high volume of online and e-commerce sales in Michigan. According to the release, Farm & Fleet keyed on Jackson and Portage because of the communities’ population bases but also because of their proximity to a rural population, which Farm & Fleet considers one of its major sales demographics.

In Jackson, the new Farm & Fleet store will be 120,000 square feet, and it’s planned on a site that once housed a Kmart store.

The Portage store is planned at 108,000 square feet, including an automotive service center. It will be built near a local shopping mall and movie theater.

According to renderings Farm & Fleet released, the stores will have amenities Farm & Fleet recently launched at some of its other stores, including a drive-up pickup bay for customers and in-store pickup of online orders.

In a statement, Farm & Fleet owner and President Jane Blain Gilbertson said Farm & Fleet’s expansion into Michigan is part of an “aggressive” strategy of expansion and investment it launched several years ago—a continuation of expansions that recently keyed on store openings in the Chicago suburban market.

Farm & Fleet has 38 locations in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

The Michigan expansion comes as Farm & Fleet’s main competitor, retailer Mill’s Fleet Farm, continues expanding in Wisconsin.

The Michigan stores would be the third and fourth new locations for Farm & Fleet in recent years, following the openings of a pair of new stores in the Chicagoland communities of Romeoville, Illinois, and Elgin, Illinois.

In a statement on Wednesday, Blain Gilbertson said Farm & Fleet’s parent company and distribution arm, Blain Supply “has the capacity to service our new markets within our existing structures, including our Janesville distribution center.”

This story has been amended from an earlier viersion to include details on the impact of Farm & Fleet’s Michigan expansion on the company’s distribution arm.

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