Former Ernst hardware stores in Utah may be getting new tenants as an Idaho farm supply store begins to expand.

The growing sporting goods and farm supply company will open its second Utah store in the vacant Spanish Fork building in about three weeks.It will be the southernmost location for C-A-L Ranch Stores, which currently has six stores in operation. The chain sells hunting and fishing equipment, sporting goods, work and western wear and an array of farming and gardening tools and supplies.

"Ernst stores have worked out well for us. They're right in line with what we do," said Bruce Sharp, Utah store operations manager.

C-A-L Ranch Stores also occupies a former Ernst store in Logan. C-A-L plans more stores in Utah between Logan and Spanish Fork. The company will consider other vacant Ernst stores, which went out of business early in 1997.

"We'll be looking at other Ernst stores and other opportunities," he said. Based in Seattle, where the first store opened in 1893, Ernst had eight stores in Utah. The Ogden, Layton and Sandy stores were the first to close. Some of the stores have already been acquired by other retailers.

The Spanish Fork C-A-L store, due to open Sept. 21, will also serve as the southern distribution point for the company. The northern distribution point is in Idaho Falls. Spanish Fork's store measures 53,000 square feet, with 34,000 square feet earmarked as selling space. The rest is reserved as the distribution center or for local warehousing. It will be one of the largest stores in the chain. The 39-year-old company has five stores in southeast Idaho ranging from about 18,000 square feet in Blackfoot to about 36,000 square feet in Idaho Falls.

C-A-L is not only targeting Utah agricultural buyers, but also an urban and rural combination by offering garden supplies and equipment along with farm products. A large pet supply section is targeting local residents who live in town as well as on the farm. Spanish Fork is central to Utah County's agricultural business.

C-A-L is a privately held company, and Sharp wouldn't discuss its earnings. However, it is involved in Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs and offers scholarships to its members.

Eight years ago C-A-L began offering sporting goods - a natural move for the company because of the avid interest among agricultural people in hunting and fishing, Sharp said. "That is now a big part of our business."

The store will carry about 800 guns, both rifles and handguns.

About 20 to 25 people will be employed at the Spanish Fork store, said manager Tim Walters. "The only people we brought in was the management team because of the need for trained people," he said.

The store will be open daily, including Sundays.

"Our Logan store does quite well on Sundays," said Sharp. People who shop the store on Sundays usually work six days a week and don't get a chance to get their shopping done. Other Sunday sales are for emergency supplies, he said.