Coloma Community Development Committee discusses the future of grocery store

Over 20 people were in attendance for the Village of Coloma Community Development Meeting at the Anna Follett Community Center on Jan. 2 to discuss the future of the grocery store that was recently purchased by Gary and Linda Peterson.

Peterson, who lives in Berlin and owns a second home on Pleasant Lake, stated he purchased the store from the bank with the hopes to find someone to operate or lease it.

“My intentions, at this point, was to buy the store as an investment,” he said. “I would like to resell it or lease it out. Personally, I have no experience running a grocery store, but now that it is out of the bank’s hands it is more flexible since they did not want to lease or finance it. I’m trying to find someone with experience to run a grocery store.”

Going around the room, many citizens and business owners asked a number of questions and pitched potential ideas to help bring a grocery store back to the area. One of the main concerns was what the business model would look like as well as if it would be sustainable now that Dollar General is located in the village.

Many felt that it would be important to have local produce as well as meats for sale, but the capital investment to purchase the goods for the store was brought up and continued to be a concern.

“There is a need to have quality, service and also have value,” stated Bob Martin, a previous owner of the grocery store.

Martin also added someone would need to look at running a grocery store heightening the products located on the outside of the store as the interior business is gone with customers going to Walmart or Dollar Stores. “Everyone sells chips and eggs, you have to run it with fresh produce, dairy, a strong meat department, frozen convenience foods and a bakery,” he said.

Martin added that those outside aisles are all extremely labor intensive and the person running the store would have to be “married to that business, which would be extremely hard to do without hands-on ownership.”

L&L Hardware owner Ted Lewko, Coloma, stated that the village was fortunate that a private citizen has purchased the building from the bank in the past few weeks, but raised a concern as to whether it would be feasible for the store to thrive in the area.

Lewko also added that the loss of the grocery store has affected his business as well as others within the area, but felt that “we can’t reverse the clock 25 years…we need to look at the opportunities we have now and plan for the future,” he said.

Near the end of the meeting, Village Board President Arden Bandt stated that there has been some interest in investors and the Community Development Committee will continue to discuss the matter and are open to ideas, including the possibility of having an up-to-date feasibility study to see what the area needs.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was decided that committee member Kevin Allison, previous owner of a Supervalu in Hartford, would reach out to few of his personal friends to see if there is anyone interested in owning or operating a new grocery in Coloma, while Fred Erickson and Martin will work on placing advertisements in the newspaper.

Correction:

In the Dec. 28 edition of the Waushara Argus, the article “Coloma Grocery Store Sold” should have stated that Gary and Linda Peterson were purchasing the store with hopes to find someone to run it.