The Harbor Freight Tools store in Presque Isle is pictured in an August 2017 file photo. Credit: Anthony Brino / BDN

A nationwide discount tool retailer is renovating an empty space in the Maine Coast Mall in Ellsworth and plans to open for business this spring.

Harbor Freight Tools is renovating part of the mall that has been empty since Marden’s relocated in 2010 to a site on Route 3 near the Trenton town line. TJ Maxx has occupied half of the former Marden’s space since it opened in Ellsworth in 2011.

A building permit issued by the city’s code enforcement office indicates that Harbor Freight expects to spend $865,000 to renovate the 15,800-square-foot space at the southern end of the mall, closest to McDonald’s. The company says on its website that it plans to open the Ellsworth store this April.

The store will be Harbor Freight’s eighth location in Maine. The retailer has other stores in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Presque Isle, Rockland, South Portland and Waterville.

Harbor Freight will be the 12th tenant at the mall, which has had several vacant spaces in recent years as online shopping has disrupted the retail industry and more national or regional retail chains have expanded to Ellsworth. Despite challenges to the retail industry, which long has been the basis of Ellsworth’s economy, for years the city has been one of the fastest-growing municipalities in all of Maine.  

T.J. Maxx, a Hannaford supermarket, MXA Fitness and Label Shopper are some of the other businesses inside the mall. Eden Laundry, Nana’s Attic, Disconnected tattoo parlor, Constitution Hall, Three Pennies and a Dime, the Hancock County Republican Party offices and the Ellsworth Water Department are also tenants.

Harbor Freight began operations as a mail-order tool business in California in 1977 and opened its first brick-and-mortar walk-in location in 1980 with a store in Lexington, Kentucky, according to the company’s website. Since then it has expanded nationwide and has more than 1,400 stores total in all states but Alaska and Hawaii.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....