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Shoppers enter Blain’s Farm & Fleet in Janesville in a Gazette file photo. The Janesville-based retail company announced it plans to open two new Wisconsin stores next year in Rhinelander and Grafton.

JANESVILLE

Blain’s Farm & Fleet plans to boost its presence northward and toward suburban Milwaukee with its first significant expansion of stores in Wisconsin this decade.

After opening a half dozen new stores in Michigan and suburban Chicago over the past four years, Farm & Fleet plans to break ground on a store in Rhinelander and retrofit a former Shopko store in Grafton.

Headquartered in Janesville, the farm supply and apparel retailer announced last week its plans to open the two new stores in Wisconsin by fall 2022.

The Rhinelander store will launch on a parcel on Rhinelander’s east side that Farm & Fleet bought years ago with long-term plans to build there. Farm & Fleet spokeswoman Miranda Becker said the Rhinelander location—a planned, 94,000-square-foot store—would be Farm & Fleet’s northernmost store in Wisconsin.

Farm & Fleet runs 43 stores in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. It operates other stores in the northern part of the state, including Chippewa Falls and Rice Lake.

Alongside the Rhinelander store, Farm & Fleet plans to rehab an 85,000-square-foot store in the Wisconsin Avenue retail corridor in Grafton. Grafton is a city of about 10,000 people on the northern edge of the Milwaukee suburbs.

Farm & Fleet operates stores in the Milwaukee suburban communities of Waukesha and Oak Creek.

Becker said Farm & Fleet has had plans for years to launch stores in both Rhinelander and Grafton. She said the retailer views both communities as having a growing customer base and a demographic blend that aligns with Farm & Fleet’s retail model.

Both new Farm & Fleet stores will be full-size outlets with a footprint similar to other locations the company has built recently.

The Grafton store would be the second former Shopko location that Farm & Fleet has retrofitted in the past two years. Farm & Fleet remodeled a 77,000-square-foot former Shopko space in Monroe.

“We’ve been looking at the Grafton area for a long time. We’ve wanted to serve this community for a long time,” Becker said. “Often when we look at a new market, we see it’s beneficial for both us and the community to repurpose an existing unused building. It helps the community fill a void and potentially avoid an abandoned retail building in that community. Whenever we’re able to, whenever the building fits the needs, we’ll do that.”

This report has been altered from an earlier version to reflect which northern Wisconsin communities have Farm & Fleet stores. Chippewa Falls and Rice Lake have Farm & Fleet stores.

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