Hobby Lobby store to open in Maplewood amidst national controversy

Supreme Court decision not slowing plans for October grand opening

Despite a deluge of news reports and street protests following Hobby Lobby’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last month, the company is marching forward with its expansion plans.

Most recently, the privately held corporation announced it would be opening a store in the Plaza 3000 strip center near the Maplewood Mall.

The new craft and gift store is scheduled to open in early October, and will become just the second Hobby Lobby in the Twin Cities, following the opening of a store in Woodbury in February.

The franchise as a whole has been the center of attention in recent weeks after its owners, the Green family, won a narrow, 5-4, Supreme Court victory.

The Green family argued that being forced to provide IUDs and the morning after pill, requirements under the Affordable Care Act, went against their evangelical Christian beliefs, because they believe such treatments are tantamount to abortion.

The court ruled that “closely held” private companies could refuse to cover certain contraception methods if such coverage offends the owners’ religious beliefs.

While many people hailed the decision as a victory for religious freedom, hundreds of protesters chanted and waved signs in front of Hobby Lobby stores across the nation, objecting to the store’s decision to exempt specific contraceptives from employees’ medical coverage on religious grounds.  

All applications evaluated fairly

Even though the leasing agreement for the proposed Maplewood store was made in early 2014, Maplewood assistant city manager Melinda Coleman said that the court ruling and ensuing controversy would not have entered into city officials’ evaluation of Hobby Lobby’s permit applications.

“We certainly would have [still accepted the application],” Coleman told the Review in an interview last week. “It’s not our role to be involved in political or cultural concerns.

“We treat every business the same, and want every business to succeed.”

The legal organization representing Hobby Lobby throughout the court case was the Becket Fund law firm. It could not be reached for comment for this story, but in the past it has stated on its website: “The Green family believes that ‘it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.’

“Therefore they seek to honor God by ‘operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.’”

Lots of positive buzz

The Plaza 3000 shopping center is owned by Azure Properties of Little Canada. Property manager Tom Schuette agreed with Coleman’s assessment, saying the recent news developments would not have affected Azure’s decision to enter into a leasing agreement with Hobby Lobby.

The store will be located in the space occupied for many years by the Larkin Dance Studio, which moved into its own building in Maplewood earlier this year.

Schuette said he’s received lots of positive comments from the Maplewood community about this new store.

“We’re hearing a lot of excitement about it,” Schuette said. “People are looking forward to it, and we here are excited about it.”

The excitement of the addition isn’t simply because of the store itself. According to reports, Plaza 3000’s vacancy rate will plunge from 41 percent to just 2 percent as a result of the store’s construction.

While the rates for the lease Hobby Lobby received remain confidential, it appears negotiations took a number of turns.

According to reports, a large portion of the mall’s interior hallway will be eliminated in order create more store space for new store. The change created 10,000 more feet of rentable space.

The company also hasn’t budged on the Maplewood store’s expected opening date, which is still slated for Oct. 1.

You can reach Tim Faklis at 651-748-7814, at tfaklis@lillienews.com, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews.

 

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