KASSON — Hundreds of people stood patiently in the chilly parking lot of the new Shopko Hometown store this morning as city officials and company representatives welcomed them to the store on the site of the old Lions Park.

Hot drinks and cookies were offered to the shivering crowd and the $10 gift cards offered to the first 100 people in line were snapped up quickly.

One group of women had even parked an ice-fishing house on the parking lot, where they stayed warm until just before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Then they brought out laminated letters spelling out "welcome."

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Michelle Hansen, manager of the Shopko Foundation, presented a check for $2,500 to Kasson-Mantorville schools and a $1,000 check to the community action agency SEMCAC.

At the groundbreaking ceremony in June, the company gave a $2,500 check to the Kasson Area Community Foundation, which was matched by Oppidan Development Inc., the company that built the store for Shopko.

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In an earlier interview, store manager Kerry Kruger explained the store is a condensed version of a full-size Shopko store, like the two in Rochester. Near the entrance into the store, the shoe display is readily visible. Shoes are one thing that couldn't be purchased in town before.

Kruger noted the store is the first Shopko built that has plain concrete floors in the walking aisles. There is carpeting under the clothing displays.

Kruger said business during the first week has, "exceeded expectations."

There's been a lot on interest and people have been very positive, he said.

He said there are about 35 employees at the store and at any given time, between 10 and 12 of them will work full time.

The store was built surprisingly fast considering the hoops the company had to jump through to get it done. Only one year ago, five homes and a small coffee shop sat on land near the old Lions Park for what was to be their last Christmas.

Some of the structures were owned by the city. Oppidan purchased the rest of the homes and all structures were subsequently moved or demolished.

Hundreds of local residents had signed a petition against the location of the store but Shopko management's steadfast refusal to locate the store elsewhere and the revenue generated for the city by the placement of the store ushered the structure through the planning process.

Oppidan will pay about $63,000 annually in new property taxes and about $38,000 annually in special assessments. In an email exchange, Community Development Director Mike Martin commented that the exact numbers couldn't be known until all levies are certified but "those numbers should still be pretty close."

The new Lions Park, located to the west of the store, although no longer in the center of town, is more than twice as large as the old Lions Park. A new walking path, a skate park and flood control measures on Masten Creek were results of the negotiations and also benefit the city.

The new store is about 36,000 square feet in size and has about 150 parking places. It is open seven days a week except for the pharmacy, which is closed on Sunday.

Postal residents in surrounding towns and Kasson received a mailing this week from the new store with coupons and information about prizes for those who will be shopping there.