Fleet Farm goes on the block

Photo: Fleet Farm on Facebook.

Is Minnesota about to lose one of its most widely recognized local businesses?

The Mills family has confirmed that it’s selling Fleet Farm, the Brainerd-based, rural-focused chain.

It’s economics in 2015. Business is good but in order for it to be better, the family has to sell to deeper pockets.

The company’s warehouse and distribution system needs a significant upgrade requiring considerable capital investment to remain competitive, according to Stewart Mills III.

The Forum News Service says the family hired a consultant to look at operations and decided that in order to open more stores, it has to sell.

Will the name disappear too? Mills said he doesn’t know.

Mills said no one had a crystal ball, but he believes any new ownership would retain the name because the brand is so strong. He added the family is proud of the company, its legacy and its economic impact throughout the Midwest and the thousands of jobs created. In the end, he said, the family company had to make a hard decision and it was based on what was best for the employees and the growth of the company. Mills said he thinks people understand this is the next progression for the business.

Mills said he will no longer be involved in the company as the transaction is completed, probably sometime next year. The potential sale of the business, he said, has nothing to do with his political aspirations. Discussions on the company’s future predate his interest in politics, Mills said. He ran for the Minnesota 8th District Congressional seat in 2014 and expects an official announcement on his intentions for the next election within the next two weeks. Mills said his personal intention for his future is to engage in “very quiet philanthropy, but also very loud public service.”

Of greater concern is whether a non-local owner can continue the local philanthropy of Fleet Farm.

The family insists that won’t change.