Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. announced Thursday afternoon it will be opening a store in Hays.

The store will be located at 3330 Vine, site of the former WalMart. Walmart moved to its current location in 2000, and the center part of the building has been vacant  since. Hastings Books Music & Videos is in the north part of the building, and Westlake Hardware is located in the south part.

The Hays store, to be the 13th in the state for Hobby Lobby, is projected to open later this year, according to a company news release. The release said the store will bring 35 to 50 jobs paying $14 per hour for full-time employees and $9.50 per hour for part-time jobs.

“Each Hobby Lobby location enables us to become an integral part of the community by contributing to increased foot traffic, generating sales tax and adding new jobs while sharing in the growth of both the state and the city,” John Schumacher, assistant vice president for advertising, said in the release.

Hobby Lobby, a privately-owned national retail chain of crafts and home decor stores, previously had looked at Hays as a possible location approximately five years ago. When the results of a community retail survey released in May showed Hobby Lobby was one of the most-desired retail stores, Aaron White, executive director of the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development, approached the company about coming to Hays.

Hobby Lobby decided to move into the Hays market, and late last summer it started negotiations with the property owners, Verlin and Elaine Pfannenstiel, Hays, to try to work out a lease. They own the entire building.

“The price actually was agreed upon quite a few weeks ago,” Verlin Pfannenstiel said Thursday.

Other final contract details had to be worked out, and a lease agreement was reached Tuesday. Before the economic downturn in recent years, Pfannenstiel said he had other companies looking to lease the property. However, they wanted to lease just a small part of the 52,000 square feet that was vacant.

“It was a relief to find somebody who could take the whole area,” Pfannenstiel said.

White was elated to see the deal become final.

“We are excited about this,” he said Thursday. “We started working on this project last fall, early last fall.”

Hobby Lobby, headquartered in Oklahoma City, started out as Greco, a miniature picture frames company in 1970. Hobby Lobby was founded in 1972, and today has approximately 600 stores across the nation that average 55,000 square feet. Hobby Lobby offers more than 70,000 crafting and home decor products. Store hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and closed Sunday.