Kevin Wellnitz didn’t want to see some “out-of-towner” take over what once was Donna’s Gas and Grocery.
So he purchased the building at the corner of Beloit and Brodhead streets in downtown Orfordville before someone else could.
Wellnitz finalized the deal May 30, nearly one year after Donna’s shut its doors, he said.
The Army veteran and Parkview High School alumnus is not new to Orfordville’s downtown. He has owned Sather’s Service service station—the business across the street from the former Donna’s—for almost five years, he said.
The purchase makes Wellnitz the owner of two “historic” Orfordville businesses, said Beth Schmidt, chairwoman of Orfordville’s economic development committee.
The Donna’s building formerly served as an opera house, a service station and a bus garage, according to a previous story from The Gazette. Residents believe it is one of the original buildings in the village.
Sather’s Service has been in Orfordville for more than 90 years, according to a previous story from The Gazette. Wellnitz purchased the business from Bill Sather in 2013.
Wellnitz plans to turn the former gas station into an extension of Sather’s Service, he said.
Cleaning up the old gas pumps will allow his business to offer pay-at-the-pump gas 24 hours a day, which he can’t do now at the service station, Wellnitz said.
The self-serve gas pumps will allow Wellnitz to spend less time pumping gas and more time with his family, he said.
Updating pumps and signs at the former gas station is the first step, Wellnitz said. He and his wife, Rebecca, will renovate the building’s interior and exterior and lease it to another business owner.
Wellnitz plans to have the gas pumps ready by Aug. 1 and have a business in the building by Jan. 1, he said.
“I am extremely pleased he bought the building,” Schmidt said.
Renovations to the former Donna’s will add another dimension to the village, Schmidt said.
Wellnitz has reached out to the community to determine what needs people have, Schmidt said. His relationship with the community makes him “an awesome business owner.”
People miss the fresh meat counter and soft-serve ice cream from Donna’s, Schmidt said.
The Haven, a coffee shop that opened in October, has filled the ice cream gap, Schmidt said. But people are still hoping to get fresh meat or a deli in the village soon.
The Dollar General, which opened earlier this year, has filled a lot of the village’s grocery needs, but the demand for fresh meats and cheeses still holds, Schmidt said.
Schmidt believes the village has made great strides in the last three years to bring in business so residents can do more of their shopping in the village, Schmidt said. Business owners such as Wellnitz have helped make the village more business-friendly.
“We look forward to seeing progress as much, if not more, than everybody and look forward to opening the station and store as soon as everything is good and ready,” Wellnitz said.