Harbor Freight Tools plans to bring 30 jobs to DeKalb

Greg Gancarz, Reporter

DeKALB – Harbor Freight Tools, a hardware supply retailer, will be opening a new store in DeKalb this summer.

Craig Hoffman, Harbor Freight’s director of corporate communications, said the opening date for the company’s 34th location in Illinois is not set yet, but said the company is aiming for early summer.

The new 17,000 square foot store will be located at 2569 Sycamore Road, in the space previously occupied by Aldi in the Target shopping center, Hoffman said.

The company, which has over 1,100 stores nationwide, will be making renovations to the building before opening, including upgrading the loading dock and gutting the interior, Hoffman said.

“They’re not doing a lot of work inside, but some things that would align the space to their layouts,” City Manager Bill Nicklas said. “It’s not anything that’s controversial. They don’t have to re-zone or get a special-use permit or anything like that. It’s one of our general commercial zoning districts, so it suits a lot of different kinds of commercial activity.”

The opening is expected to bring about 30 new jobs to DeKalb, Hoffman said — jobs that the company likes to consider some of the best available in retail.

“We’ve been looking at DeKalb for a while,” Hoffman said. “We don’t open a store just to open a store. We want to find just the right location, which is why it could be a years-long process. We always look for a community that has a good talent pool that we can draw from.”

Hoffman said the location of the former Aldi is also a great fit for the company and allows for easier browsing and a smaller footprint than the “big-box” store competition.

“You can come in, pick up what you need and get out really quickly,” Hoffman said. “It’s kind of a competitive advantage.”

Hoffman said as an essential business, the pandemic did not factor into the timetable of the new store’s opening; however, the usual grand-opening celebration that typically accompanies a new store is currently canceled to avoid unnecessary crowds.

Nicklas expressed optimism about the company’s impact on DeKalb. 

“They didn’t ask for any incentives,” Nicklas said. “They have a line of goods that’s helpful to homeowners as well as commercial businesses, contractors and the like. We’re a growing area, and I think they saw a market here.”