Janesville's south-side Pick 'n Save to close in November

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Jim Dayton
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

JANESVILLE—The south-side Pick 'n Save will close in early November, which will exacerbate the dearth of grocery stores in that area of Janesville.

Pick 'n Save, located at 1717 Center Ave., plans to shut its doors no later than Nov. 4 and will leave the south side without a full-service food store.

The store is located two miles from the next-closest grocer—a Sentry Foods on West Court Street, Economic Development Director Gale Price said.

“It further increases the problem of having a lack of viable grocery stores in the area. That's going to force these citizens to make a longer commute to get fresh food,” he said.

“A food desert is basically an area of a mile radius that does not have a full-service grocery store available. This will be a very significant food desert with the combination of the Fourth Ward and central city.”

The store could close sooner than Nov. 4, but that's not likely, Roundy's Vice President of Communications James Hyland told The Gazette in an email.

Roundy's is Pick 'n Save's parent company.

Roundy's decided to close the store because of its “long-term financial performance.” Employees will be given the opportunity to transfer to another Pick 'n Save, Hyland wrote in the email.

The Pick 'n Save, built in 1996, is a 129,000-square-foot facility. Price noted that's much larger than the 77,000-square-foot Festival Foods that opened two years ago on Janesville's north side.

Because the Pick 'n Save is such a large building, it could be portioned into small store spaces. Private developers will determine if such a move is necessary or if another large tenant can fill the vacancy, Price said.

Hyland said Roundy's would not prevent another grocer from moving into the facility.

As Festival Foods prepared to open in 2015, one economic analyst told The Gazette a new grocery store could put an existing one out of business.

“If you add 60,000 or 70,000 square feet of groceries, it's not like people are going to be buying more groceries,” UW-Whitewater economics professor Russ Kashian said in 2015. “It turns into who are you pressuring or pushing out?”

City Council President Doug Marklein was surprised to hear the news. He figured the store would succeed because it dominated the south-side territory.

Both he and Price were unsure if the Pick 'n Save wasn't doing enough to attract customers.

“If they weren't meeting the needs of the community or deft to what the community was looking for, you'd think shutting it would be their last resort,” Marklein said.

“Step up your game, find out what you're weak on, talk to your customers and find out what their needs are and try to make it work,” he said.

Center Avenue doesn't have the regional draw of Festival Foods, Woodman's or other grocers along the Highway 14 and Highway 26 corridors. Whoever replaces the Pick 'n Save might need to try something different, such as lower prices or mini in-store restaurants, to give customers a reason to shop there, Marklein said.

Price said it's a “significant concern” that south-side residents without transportation will no longer have nearby access to fresh food.

The city will try to encourage another grocery operator to replace Pick 'n Save soon, he said.

This article was updated to clarify that Roundy's would not prevent another grocer from moving into the vacant building.

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