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Fresh grocery markets still stacked up on Janesville's north end, sparse on city's south side

JANESVILLE

If Hy-Vee locates a new supermarket and restaurant in the former Shopko, it would bring the total number of large-format grocery chains in the heart of Janesville’s crowded, northside retail spur to four.

The new Hy-Vee would compete directly with Woodman’s corporate flagship store just across the street, and it would be just a few hundred yards south across Humes Road from a Festival Foods supermarket and about a half a mile from an Aldi supermarket on Deerfield Drive.

That’s on top of existing local grocery-selling chains such as Walmart, Target and Sam’s Club, as well as multiple gas station/convenience stores, including a new, large-format Kwik Trip, all located within a mile or less of the former Shopko.

At the same time that Hy-Vee aims to pile onto the growing cluster of supermarkets and convenience marts on the city’s northeast side, full-service supermarkets remain conspicuously absent on both the city’s south side and near downtown.

Janesville’s city council could decide as early as mid-December whether to give a green light to Hy-Vee’s plan for a hybrid grocery store/bar and grill inside the 100,000 square-foot, former Shopko at 2500 Humes Road.

Right now, Hy-Vee is considering bringing a full-service grocery and liquor store along with a Wahlburger’s bar and grill restaurant and a coffee shop.

That plan would hinge in part on the city changing rules that now don’t specifically allow grocery stores to sell alcohol through an onsite tavern.

Anthony Wahl 

A car passes the defunct, former Shopko store on Janesville’s north side. The city’s alcohol license advisory committee gave a nod to Des Moines, Iowa, based supermarket company’s request to allow it to redevelop the store with a full grocery store along with a restaurant-bar.

Sense seen in grouped grocers

Russ Kashian, a UW-Whitewater economist, said it doesn’t surprise him that a new grocery chain would want to locate right among the cluster of existing supermarkets in the heart of Janesville’s main retail corridor.

The location, he said, leverages both the nearby Interstate 90/39 corridor, which he said gives easy access to another local supermarket. That could make Hy-Vee, and Janesville’s northeast end, more of a regional shopping draw, particularly for people who commute from Janesville daily to work in Madison or Rockford.

Kahsian said it’s likely any major new grocer added to the mix will put some pressure on existing grocers in Janesville, including a few supermarkets that are isolated from the city’s main retail corridor.

The economist said that in some cases, existing grocers weather new competition not by competing directly through grocery prices but instead by strengthening or diversifying niche offerings and store services.

But Kashian said as the regional economy begins to emerge from months of strain under the COVID-19 pandemic, a desire by a large chain such as Hy-Vee to redevelop a large scale, vacant Shopko in a prominent spot embodies a bold bet on the city’s future.

“It will create a challenge to the existing businesses. I really believe it could because it comes down to a formula of square feet of retail, local population and income. People in a given area can only eat so much food,” Kashian said.

“But there are positives,” he continued. “This could be viewed as a testament of faith by Hy-Vee in the future economy of Janesville. They’re investing in the community and in existing real estate that’s been vacant, and they’re investing in regard to consumer spending. They’re making a statement that they’re confident in the future of Janesville and the region.”

Anthony Wahl 

A proposed Hy-Vee at the former Shopko would add to the number of full-service grocery stores that are clustered on Janesville’s northside.

Hy-Vee buying up old Shopkos

Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee has been, for the last two years, buying up defunct former Shopko stores in rural Iowa communities and converting the properties to grocery stores.

A Hy-Vee spokeswoman said in an interview late last month that Hy-Vee intends to buy the former Janesville Shopko, which has been vacant since mid-2019. But she said the company hasn’t yet solidified plans for renovations or redevelopment.

City Economic Development Director Gale Price said last month that Hy-Vee was “very early” in the process of planning its proposed store. But he said the company seems eager to move forward on the project within the next few months. That’s pending city decisions on various aspects of Hy-Vee’s proposal—namely, a plan to house a chain restaurant and bar within the store space.

The city does not intend to extend a tax-incentive package to Hy-Vee for the project, Price said. It would be the first supermarket in Janesville to house a bar and grill.

While existing supermarket operators in Janesville likely are keenly observing Hy-Vee’s plans, a few local gas station convenience store operators on the city’s south side and near downtown are moving forward with their own smaller-scale grocery projects.

South side hosts smaller stores

On the south side, owners of Janesville’s Roman’s chain of gas stations retrofitted a small former gas station off Center Avenue earlier this year, transforming it into a small grocery that provides fresh staple items and meats.

The owner said the south side grocery mart is aimed at plugging the fresh grocery gap left when supermarket giant Kroger shuttered Janesville’s Center Avenue Pick ’n Save in 2017.

Just south of downtown, at the corner of Racine and Main streets, owners of a former Lions Quick Mart gas station convenience store have removed the shop’s gas pumps and refitted the small station as a grocery.

Anthony Wahl 

A customer enters the Lions Quick Mart at the intersection of Main and Racine Streets. The gas station has removed former gas pumps, placed new concrete down and has plans to add on and become a small grocery store.

The store has a newly paved parking lot, and inside, manager Roberta Mason said, store clerks are recrafting how the store looks and feels.

She said the shop’s owner is eyeing plans next year to expand the store to the south to grow its retail space and parking footprint.

Mason said the same day her store had the gas pumps removed to make room for more parking, clerks at the store learned Hy-Vee was planning to move in on the north side. She said it hasn’t changed the owners’ plans.

“There’s still a need for groceries here because now it’s just the north part of town where all the supermarkets are,” Mason said. “Some people who live here near downtown, a lot of our customers, actually, don’t have cars and they don’t drive. So it’s really hard for them to get all the way up to Janesville’s north end to go shopping. That’s why losing that Pick ’n Save on the south side has really made it difficult for people who live near downtown or on the south side to get food.”

She added, “For us, this is about the downtown. We’re really trying to make an improvement for people who live near the downtown.”

Anthony Wahl 

Lions Quickmart Manager Roberta Mason points to an empty lot that could give her store extra square footage for a possible small grocery store.


Obituaries and death notices for Dec. 2, 2021

Cheryl (Walser) Bradley

Allen Edwin Fischer Jr.

Joyce Marie Haan

Tyler “Ty” Harrington

Robert James “Bob” Heisz

Brittany Michele Jacobson

Christopher J. “Chris” Laube

Mildred Lucille Reitz

Myra Maxine Rude

Brian Lee “Briggs” Sowle

Philip L. “Phil” Symons

Ray Vierck


Local
top story
Jolly Jingle to return holiday celebration to downtown Janesville

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, we’re telling you why: Janesville’s annual Jolly Jingle is comin’ to town this weekend.

Beginning Friday and running through Sunday, the Janesville Recreation Division has stuffed roughly 40 mostly cost-free activities into a jam-packed weekend of family fun for all ages.

The event kicks off Friday at the ARISE Town Square, where attendees can traverse a Jingle Bell Trail throughout downtown Janesville.

Later in the evening, children age 12 and younger can hunt for jingle-bell-decorated eggs at Lower Courthouse Park. This will lead in to perhaps the biggest draw of the evening: The city’s tree-lighting ceremony, beginning at 6 p.m. in the park, followed by fireworks.

After the ceremony and before the fireworks, the Trinity Episcopal Church Choir will be caroling at the Janesville Performing Arts Center and continue singing as members walk to the town square

Saturday’s events feature trolley rides to transport attendees between downtown activities. The choices for children include an interactive story walk, arts and crafts and ice skating with jolly old St. Nick.

The highlight of the evening will be Jolly Jingle lighted parade, which begins at 6 p.m. Prompted by the recent Christmas parade tragedy in Waukesha, extra security measures will be in place during the parade in downtown Janesville.

Angela Major 

Naveah Pretty, right, and Ayden Henkel, both 7 years old, drive in a lit-up car in the Jolly Jingle Holiday Light Parade on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in downtown Janesville.

Parade security enhanced

After two weeks of meetings with participants, law enforcement officials and other members of the Janesville Jolly Jingle team, the decision was made to hold the parade as planned but with added security measures.

While Janesville police officials said they are not especially concerned about a incident like the one that occurred in Waukesha happening here, the city’s unified command group overseeing the parade will take extra precautions.

Janesville Sgt. Robert Perkins of the unified command said the beefed-up security will resemble measures taken in the past. Additional hardened road barriers and strategically parked vehicles will prevent drivers from entering the parade route. There will also be an an increased police presence at the event.

“We’re taking all the right precautions in order to make sure the community does feel safe,” Perkins said.

He suggested parade-goers be mindful of their surroundings, wear reflective clothing and keep children from running into the road to collect candy.

“Parade safety is of utmost concern to the city,” recreation division communications specialist Nick Faust said in a statement to The Gazette.

“Janesville’s Jolly Jingle and the Janesville Police Department are working cooperatively to assure the community can safely join together in celebration of the holiday spirit,” he said.

Angela Major 

Santa Claus waves at Jolly Jingle Holiday Light Parade attendees Saturday, December 7, 2019, in downtown Janesville.

The parade showcases floats decorated by civic groups and local business owners.

Dave Javan, general manager of Mr. Splash Car Wash, who is a sponsor and will help lead the parade, said the Jolly Jingle is intended to restore seasonal normalcy for residents after a long period of pandemic restrictions.

In response to COVID-19-related concerns, last year’s parade was conducted as a “reverse drive-thru” at Traxler Park. The parade on Saturday will be the first since 2019.

Javan looks forward to the opportunity to the event returning to its traditional form and see a large gathering of people.

“Last year being the drive-thru parade—it was strange,” he said. “With everything that has occurred last year and this year, I think people are ready and excited to get back to an element of normal living.”

Rounding out the weekend is another day of activities on Sunday with a 2 p.m. presentation of the timeless “A Christmas Carol,” performed at JPAC. Wrapping up the Jolly Jingle in a decorative bow is the Holiday Light Show at Rotary Botanical Gardens, running from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

More information on specific activities, in addition to hours and costs, can be found on the city’s Jolly Jingle website.

Angela Major 

Sanda Claus waves at Jolly Jingle Holiday Light Parade attendees from a parade float Saturday, December 7, 2019, in downtown Janesville.


Government
Rep. Loudenbeck announces bid for secretary of state

JANESVILLE

After serving in the Wisconsin Assembly for more than a decade, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, has announced she will run for Wisconsin Secretary of State next year.

Loudenbeck, 52, was first elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2010, first serving in the 45th District before legislative maps were redrawn and she started representing the 31st Assembly District in 2012. The 31st District covers parts of Rock and Walworth counties and parts of Janesville and Beloit. In her time in Madison, Loudenbeck has served on various committees, most notably as the vice co-chairperson of the Joint Committee on Finance. Loudenbeck told the Beloit Daily News in an interview she felt the time was right to seek statewide office.

“I have an opportunity right now to use relationships with the Legislature, my institutional knowledge and state budget experience to make the office work again, and there are opportunities to improve the limited duties of that office,” Loudenbeck said.

If elected, Loudenbeck said, she would look to “modernize” the office of the secretary of state, participate as an “active and engaged” board member on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, and “start legislative conversations” on how the office could “serve as a check” on the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

“That would do what a vast majority of other states do in having a secretary of state who is accountable to the voters and to be more involved in election administration and oversight,” Loudenbeck said. “Voter confidence and election integrity are on people’s minds.”

To statewide voters who might not know who she is, Loudenbeck said she is looking forward to meeting voters “where they are at.”

“I care about public policy and I care about Wisconsin, and that will transfer to a statewide obligation that I will honor if elected,” Loudenbeck said. “I have identified an area where I think I could add value and this is the next step and I am really excited about this opportunity.”

Current Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, has served in the position since 1983 and last won reelection in 2018. He served an earlier term as secretary of state from 1975 to 1979 but ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1978 and in a Democratic primary bid for governor in 2012 in the leadup to the recall election of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

A partisan primary election will be held on Aug. 9, 2022, followed by the general election on Nov. 8, 2022. The final candidate filing deadline is June 1, 2022.

Loudenbeck grew up in the suburban areas of Detroit and Chicago. She moved to Wisconsin in 1987 to attend UW-Madison, where she earned undergraduate degrees in political science and international relations. She became a certified firefighter in 1998 in the town of Linn. She served as a town of Clinton supervisor from 2010 to 2012.

In 2003, she began working at the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, where she continued to work until running for the Assembly in 2010.


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