Nearly two years after submitting plans, Skogen's Festival Foods has announced that its long-awaited store in Verona will be constructed this year and open this fall.
The 67,000-square-foot store is planned for a site next to Blain’s Farm & Fleet on the city's east side and adds to the highly competitive grocery industry in Dane County. That includes Verona-based Miller's Market, which was founded in 1902 and now has a 52,000-square-foot store in the city's downtown plus a location in Mount Horeb.
The store would be the 33rd location in Wisconsin for Onalaska-based Festival and its second in Dane County. In 2016, Festival opened a 57,000-square-foot store at 810 E. Washington Ave. in Madison on the ground floor of Gebhardt Development's $65 million, 4.5-acre project on the site of the former Don Miller car dealership.
The Verona store would employ about 250 people, operate 24 hours a day and include a scratch bakery, hot food and salad bars, organic foods, fresh sushi and a catering department, Mark Skogen, president and CEO of Festival Foods, said in a news release.
“In today’s marketplace, consumers have high expectations for the value they receive for their money, as well as how they are treated," Skogan said. "We are excited about the opportunity to offer Verona guests value-driven pricing, a wide selection that includes healthy options and a great shopping experience.”
Other features include energy-saving equipment, a cafe, supervised in-store child care, a community conference room and a brat stand for nonprofit fundraisers.
Despite Miller's and stores like Hy-Vee, Pick 'n Save and Woodman's all less than 5 miles away, Verona officials in 2015 conducted a market analysis that showed that there was a need for more grocery opportunities within the city, said planning director Adam Sayre.
"It showed a lot of dollars leaving the city and going elsewhere," Adam Sayre, the city's planning director, said in 2017. "It showed people buying groceries, but not in Verona, so the market is obviously reacting to what customers are doing, and they obviously want to capture those dollars."
Festival was founded in 1946 as Skogen's IGA and began operating as Festival Foods in 1990. The company has been expanding in recent years with the construction of new stores and the acquisition of existing properties.
In addition to the Verona store, Festival is also looking at Waunakee, along with Iowa-based Hy-Vee, in the Woodland Crest subdivision on the village's south side. The Waunakee Tribune reported last month that Festival has signed a purchase agreement for land west of Highway Q at Woodland Drive. The village received a formal proposal from Festival on Friday, and it could help village officials determine which grocery store project to consider, as it only wants one store in that general location. Hy-Vee's project, which would include a convenience store, is proposed for land east of Highway Q.
Kevin Even, village engineer for Waunakee, said the Village Board will meet March 25 to look at both proposals.
"They'll be able to weigh that," Even said of the Festival proposal. "It will give them a clearer picture on which way to go."
Waunakee, one of the county's fastest growing communities, has a population of 13,755, which is more than double that of 1990, and is also home to Wipperfurth's Piggly Wiggly.
In 2017, Festival purchased former Pierce's Market stores in Portage and West Baraboo. In 2014, the company bought Vos Sentry in Fort Atkinson and opened stores that year in Green Bay, Somers and Menasha. It opened a Janesville store in 2015 and, last fall, Festival purchased a privately owned and operated Festival Foods store in Mauston that for decades had been owned by the Burnstad family.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that Waunakee's only current full-service grocery store is Wipperfurth's Piggly Wiggly.