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Two Auburn Plaza retailers to close, tool chain to open

Two retailers are set to leave Auburn Plaza within the next few months, and one will be making way for a new national tenant.

Young adult clothing store rue21 will close toward the end of March, said Michael Wachs of Auburn Associates, which owns the plaza. The store, which also includes an expanded young men’s department called rueGuy, opened in February 2014. The rue21 chain numbered more than 1,000 stores when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017. It has since closed about 400 stores.

Auburn Associates decided to terminate rue21’s lease, Wachs said. While the chain’s financial problems were one factor in that decision, a bigger factor was freeing up the space to bring a new tenant to Auburn Plaza: Harbor Freight Tools. The California-based tool and equipment retailer, which has more than 900 locations in 47 states, will move into a 15,600-square-foot space that combines the former rue21 and Rent-A-Center, Wachs said. Rent-A-Center relocated to a bigger space within the plaza, the former Hong Kong Buffet, in early 2018.

Wachs said Auburn Associates hopes construction can begin on Harbor Freight’s store by the first week of April. That would allow the store to open by July 1, he continued.

“They’re a tremendous company,” he said. “They’ll bring a whole new energy into Auburn that’s best for the community.”

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