The 1200 block of East Superior Street.
It’s an odd place for CVS Pharmacy to establish a foothold in Duluth. On one side is a Walgreens store. On the other side is where Walgreens plans to build a new, bigger store to replace it.
So I called CVS about a month ago, when rumors started flying that the giant pharmacy chain was looking to acquire property that includes the Plaza strip mall on the upper side of the Superior Street and the Super America Station anchoring the other end of the block at 12th Avenue East.
CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis confirmed that CVS has looked at potential locations in the Duluth-Superior area but wouldn’t confirm the Superior Street site. Nor would he comment on rumors that CVS also was looking at a site in Two Harbors.
He said a CVS expansion to the Twin Ports area would make sense. With approximately 7,100 stores nationwide, CVS opens 200 to 300 per year. Some are in existing markets; some are built in markets where CVS hasn’t had a presence, he said.
Like the Twin Ports.
“It’s part of our normal real estate plan to open “x” amount of stores every year,” DeAngelis said. “We have had stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the Duluth market is a natural expansion of our store presence.”
But until a deal is finalized, CVS doesn’t make any announcements, he said.
“There’s no done deal,” he said of Duluth. “We would only announce specific locations if we have signed lease agreements.”
But, I persisted, would CVS open a store across the street from a Walgreens?
“Not usually,” he said. “As competitors we’re not looking to move across the street.”
But — and this is important — he said it wouldn’t stop them.
“As a company, we’re looking for similar attributes and locations,” he said. “It can mean we’re on opposite corners, because we’re both attracted to busy intersections offering high visibility and easy accessibility to our stores.”
The Superior Street site has that. And it’s close to hospitals and clinics, which is the reason Walgreens is planning to build a new store closer to them.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mark Labovitz, one of the owners of the Plaza strip mall, confirmed a sale was in the works with a purchase agreement in hand.
Unless the buyer backs out, the deal will likely close this summer. In the meantime, the developer is negotiating with the tenants to honor agreements, according to Labovitz.
“They have leases in force,” he said. “There are people negotiating with them about what they might want to do in the future. They can make an agreement to modify the agreement which is what the negotiations with the developer are about.”
Among the tenants is Lynn Levin, owner of Plaza Hair Styles. Levin had heard that CVS had put money down for the sale weeks ago. But, she said, tenant leases needed to be settled.
“The owner said there won’t be a done deal until we’re taken care of,” Levin said. “I have been here 32 years, and I feel very comfortable how the owners are handling it.”