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An empty Chase-Pitkin home improvement store in Cheektowaga will come back to life later this year as a Burlington Coat Factory store.

The Burlington, N.J.-based retailer has signed a deal with Wegmans Food Markets, which owns Chase-Pitkin, to take over the vacant building next to the Wegmans supermarket at 2003 Walden Ave. Wegmans' Buffalo spokeswoman Ann McCarthy confirmed the deal Tuesday, but was not able to provide details on Burlington's timetable or store plans.

The Walden Avenue Chase-Pitkin store was the first of two home improvement stores that Wegmans brought to Buffalo, debuting in 1992. The regional do-it-yourself chain opened a second location at 675 Alberta Drive in Amherst in 1994.

Unfortunately, "category killers" Home Depot and Builders Square also saw potential in the Buffalo market, quickly racheting up competition in the home improvement retail sector. Citing the tough competition, Wegmans closed its two local stores in early 1998, quickly converting the Amherst store to a replacement Wegmans supermarket. But until now, the Rochester retailer had not found an alternative use for the Cheektowaga site.

Word of the new Burlington store follows an announcement late last year that the company was pulling the plug on its poorly-performing store in Niagara Falls' Rainbow Centre. The new Walden Avenue store will keep the local Burlington store count at three.

Its other stores are located at 1551 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst and in the Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence. The latter outlet, which is housed a former Jenss department store, replaced the coat company's former store in the nearby Clarence Mall. The new Walden Avenue location is expected to reflect the company's updated selling approach, which displays its off-price goods in a more upscale, department store-like manner.

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