There will be much celebration Friday when the long-awaited Festival Foods store opens on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue.
The 57,000-square-foot store, originally scheduled to open in August 2015, is 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 project, in the 14-story Galaxie building, includes 200 apartment units and is located next door to the 12-story Constellation apartment building and, on the opposite side, across the street from Breese Stevens Field.
Festival, based in Onalaska near La Crosse, operates 21 stores, including locations in Fort Atkinson and Janesville. The Madison store, the company’s 22nd, will employ about 200 people.
But the excitement is also building on the city’s West Side for a much smaller grocery project.
Regent Market Co-op, 2136 Regent St. and just a block from West High School, is in the midst of a $1 million project that will nearly double the store’s size to 2,800 square feet. In August, the co-op, with about 2,000 members, purchased the building and bought out the lease of the neighboring liquor store. Construction began in October and the store remains a construction zone but a grand-opening celebration is scheduled for May 22.
The store, a fixture in the neighborhood for more than 90 years and a co-op since 1998, has remained open throughout the project that is rearranging the store’s layout and moving the meat department into the former liquor store space. There are plans for scoop ice cream and to install eight taps to sell growlers of beer, cider and kombucha.
“I’m hoping that it will increase our profitability and bring in new people,” said John Wendt, the co-op’s manager since 2000. “This expansion is very critical because we were pretty much capped where we were at. If we didn’t expand we’d probably only (see sales) going down.”
Other improvements include new refrigeration, a larger produce section (underneath a mural painted in 1996 by Jay Rath) and a beer cave. The aisles of the store will be wider and shelving redesigned to allow for customers to see through the shelving, which will also be lower. The windows at the front of the store will also be cleared of shelving and products to allow more natural light into the building. A stairwell at the front of the building used to access the upstairs was moved to the back of the building and a public restroom is being added.
“We still want to make it feel like our neighborhood store and not some big box store that’s been plopped down in the neighborhood,” said Kurt Reinhold, project manager and a co-op member for just over a year. “We’re trying to maintain the store’s heritage.”
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A dining counter that looks out over Regent Street is planned along with outdoor seating during warmer weather. Bill Stoneking, manager of the meat department, said the improvements, which include an 18-foot-long display case filled with fresh meats, will likely increase the sales of pizza, rotisserie chicken and sandwiches.
“It’s bigger, it’s nicer and we’re not bumping into each other,” Stoneking said of the new space.
ERIK’S opens its new East Side store: Just in time for spring, Erik’s Bike Board Ski has opened its new 9,716-square-foot building at 3813 E. Washington Ave. on the former Schlotzsky’s Deli site in front of the Hy-Vee grocery store.
The $1.4 million building replaces the Erik’s at 1651 Thierer Road and provides a more visible location for the Minnesota-based retailer.
“The new location is much more convenient for customers,” said Erik Saltvold, ERIK’S owner and founder. “And the new store layout makes it easy for customers to find the products they need for their next adventure – on a bike or on the slopes.”
Erik’s also has a West Side location at 6610 Seybold Road and a store at 795 University Avenue near the UW-Madison campus.
Erik’s, with 15 stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin, entered the Madison market in 2002 with a store at Whitney Way and Odana Road before building the $1.5 million Seybold Road store in 2012.
One shining cheese moment: Willy Street Co-op’s March Madness didn’t include Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina or even the University of Wisconsin, but it was loaded with plenty of heavy-hitters from the Badger State.
The names in the bracket included Hook, Penterman, Roth, Sartori, Uplands and Carr and were part of the co-op’s Cheese Challenge.
The event started March 17 with 32 “teams” of cheese but it was a sheep's milk Gouda from Hook's Cheese in Mineral Point that took home the title on Sunday. It beat out a Montamore from Sartori Cheese in Plymouth.
In the Final Four, Sartori beat Fitchburg-based Roth's Private Reserve while Hook's knocked out a buttermilk blue from Roth.
The initial match-ups featured 16 cheeses each at both the Willy Street and Middleton stores. They were pared down last weekend to the Edible Eight and then the Final Four, which was voted on through sampling at both stores.