Floral designer Nancy Golde snips the stem off a rose to be placed in a vase Friday. She has worked for either Ben Franklin Stores or Ben's Floral & Frame for 27 years. She will continue to work with flowers when Ben's Floral & Frame becomes Sterling Drug. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune
Floral designer Nancy Golde snips the stem off a rose to be placed in a vase Friday. She has worked for either Ben Franklin Stores or Ben's Floral & Frame for 27 years. She will continue to work with flowers when Ben's Floral & Frame becomes Sterling Drug. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

Movin’ on up

Published 11:19am Monday, February 25, 2013

Ben’s Floral & Frame Design is going to become a Sterling Drug.

The deal between Ben’s Floral & Frame owners Steve and Debbie Tubbs and Sterling owner Astrup Drug Inc. takes effect Friday. That means Thursday is the final day Ben’s Floral & Frame will be open.

Renovation and remodeling of the Ben’s building will ensue, with a finish time slated for May, said Sam Ewing, who is vice president of operations for the Austin-based Astrup Drug.

Ben’s Floral & Frame is at 410 Bridge Ave. in Albert Lea. A sign out front highlights sharp discounts as the store seeks to sell its merchandise before the end of the month. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune
Ben’s Floral & Frame is at 410 Bridge Ave. in Albert Lea. A sign out front highlights sharp discounts as the store seeks to sell its merchandise before the end of the month. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

“This is a long-term commitment to Albert Lea,” Ewing said.

Astrup Drug Inc. plans to work with Larson Contracting to remove the wall between the main part of Ben’s Floral & Frame and the west side where the Lakeside Cafe existed. The company purchased the building, the land and the floral aspect of the Tubbses’ business. The selling price was not disclosed.

“We want to open the whole thing up, build a brand new place,” he said.

The pharmacy, Ewing said, will be in the area of the former restaurant. The company will move its inventory of gifts from the existing Sterling Drug on Broadway in Albert Lea. And it will sell flowers.

What will happen to the existing Sterling Drug, 148 S. Broadway, remains to be seen, Ewing said. The company will make a decision as more details about the summer reconstruction of Broadway are available. Ben’s Floral & Frame is at 410 Bridge Ave.

The new location, he said, offers less space than the one on Broadway but the access is better.

Sterling Drug is at 148 S. Broadway. What Astrup Drug Inc. plans to do with that building after it moves to 410 Bridge Ave. remains undetermined.
Sterling Drug is at 148 S. Broadway. What Astrup Drug Inc. plans to do with that building after it moves to 410 Bridge Ave. remains undetermined.

Some of the reasons for the purchase and relocation, he said, are to compete with Walgreens, to be on a busier street, to provide more parking and to install a drive-through on the back side of the building.

“It’s attractive from every angle,” Ewing said.

Walgreens built a store on the block bordered by Bridge Avenue and Shell Rock, Katherine and East Main streets in 2007.

Traffic counts from 2009 show the busiest route in Albert Lea — not counting freeways — is Main Street and the second busiest is Bridge Avenue. Where the two streets are a block apart on the southeast end of Fountain Lake is prime retail real estate.

Steve Tubbs, the processing manager at donations processing company Agilis, said this is the 25th year of Ben’s Floral & Frame. He said he and Debbie want to make a change.

“Debbie and I wanted to simplify our lives and not have the responsibility of being property and business owners,” he said.

He said Sterling Drug will maintain the existing staff.

“All the talent and expertise will now be working for Sterling,” Steve said.

Ben’s Floral & Frame began in 1988 in Skyline Mall before moving to Northbridge Mall. In 1998, the Tubbses built the location at 410 Bridge Ave.

Steve approached Astrup Drug about the deal because he felt the company would be a natural fit.

“It is exciting to see Sterling take what we started and transform Ben’s Floral & Frame Design with a new concept,” he said.

Astrup Drug has more than 20 locations throughout southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, operating under the names Sterling Drug and Smart Pharmacy.