Maurer’s Market on Janesville’s east side will shut its doors, the owners announced Monday, closing the book on a neighborhood grocery that had been open only about a year and a half.
Janesville Economic Development Director Gale Price said Maurer’s Market owner Jeff Maurer told the city via email Monday that the store was closing.
Price said Maurer did not give an exact date for the closure, but his email indicated that the store has suspended ordering new stock and that Maurer’s Market plans to liquidate existing stock.
“The email this morning from Mr. Maurer said the store is not profitable, and he is going to initiate closing the store. He was informing the employees this morning (Monday) and proceeding with liquidating the stock and selling the equipment,” Price said in an interview Monday evening.
Maurer did not immediately return messages left by a Gazette reporter seeking comment Monday evening.
In June 2018, Maurer’s Market bought the supermarket at 2822 E. Milwaukee St. that had operated for years as Daniels Sentry East. The store became a Maurer’s Market IGA under Maurer’s ownership and reopened in August 2018.
At the time the business was sold, the manager of the Sentry store said he believed Maurer would lay off but then rehire all Sentry employees. But Maurer instead opted to lay off and not rehire about half of the staff.
At the time, Maurer said he believed the IGA could be staffed with fewer people.
In the year and a half since, Maurer’s Market began offering online grocery orders and, more recently, phone-in grocery orders and home delivery for elderly residents who can’t drive.
Maurer told The Gazette that phone-in grocery ordering wasn’t expected to be a cash cow for the store, but he said it would provide a service that he didn’t believe existed in Janesville.
The move to offer phone-in grocery orders came on the heels of intermittent closures of East Milwaukee Street near the Interstate 90/39 overpass as part of the Interstate expansion project.
At the time, Maurer said the store had been weathering street tear-up and closures, but the phone-in grocery service wasn’t a reaction to street work.
It wasn’t clear Monday how many employees would be affected by the store’s closure or what might happen to the 28,000-square-foot store once it is emptied of stock and equipment.
The building is listed in city property records as being owned by Daniels Investments LLC, a part of Daniels Sentry, even though Maurer’s Market owned and operated the business inside.
Maurer also owns and operates Maurer’s Market in Wisconsin Dells.
Price said the city’s economic development office has had conversations with Maurer about the store’s performance.
He said Maurer had spoken with Rock County officials about the potential for a new grocery store on the south side, near property the county now owns.
Earlier this year, the county bought the former Pick ‘n Save on Center Avenue and plans to turn it into social service offices. Pick ‘n Save had abruptly closed in November 2017.
Price said Maurer had been working on a market analysis of prospects for a grocery on the south side. Price said that plan appears to have fallen apart in tandem with Maurer’s decision to close Maurer’s Market.
“The long and short of it is that in his email today, he said the decision to close the east-side store eliminated any opportunity for him to participate on the south side,” Price said.
Price said Maurer wrote in the email that the lack of a grocery store on the east and south sides of Janesville creates a “significant food desert” in both areas.
“I don’t disagree,” Price said. “But I think one of the challenges is people are very loyal to Woodman’s on the north side. They’ll price shop and take a trip up to the north side. That doesn’t bode well for little neighborhood grocery stores that serve segments of the market that might not be quite as affluent or mobile.”
This article has been amended from an earlier version to accurately reflect statements made by city of Janesville Economic Development Manager Gale Price. Price said an email from Maurer's Market indicated the company's store on Janesville would be closing because the owner considers the store "not profitable."