A day after announcing that it would buy grocery stores in Portage and West Baraboo, Festival Foods submitted plans Wednesday with the city of Verona for a nearly 68,000-square-foot grocery store on the city’s northeast side.
If approved, it would become the second store in Dane County for the Onalaska-based retailer and offer direct competition to downtown Verona’s Miller & Sons, the only other full-service grocery store in the fast-growing city of more than 12,000 people.
Verona conducted a market analysis about two years ago and it 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,” Sayre said. “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.”
The proposal includes 252 surface parking stalls in front of the building on East Verona Avenue, just east of Farm & Fleet. Sayre said the proposal would go to the city’s Plan Commission on June 5 and be reviewed by the City Council on June 12. Ground could be broken in 2018 with the store opening in 2019, Sayre said.
Carl Miller, whose great-grandfather founded in 1902 what has become a 52,000-square-foot Miller & Sons, said Festival representatives contacted him months ago to tell him of their plans to enter the city.
Miller, however, sees room in the marketplace for Festival as well as larger stores like Hy-Vee, Pick ’n Save and Woodman’s all less than 5 miles away.
“I’ll just keep plugging away and doing my thing,” said Miller, 64, who in 2009 purchased Kalscheur’s Fine Foods in Mount Horeb before building a 44,000-square-foot store on Mount Horeb’s east side in 2013. “The Woodman’s and the Wal-Marts and the big guys have left the market open for us guys. They don’t do deli, and the meat departments are all going away. Our bakeries and delis are doing quite well.”
Festival officials had little comment on their Verona proposal.
“There is nothing concrete here yet,” said Brian Stenzel, a company spokesman. “We regularly consider sites in many locations. We are considering a site in Verona, but have much work to do before we know a store is even possible.”
With the conversion of Pierce’s Markets stores in West Baraboo and Portage to the Festival brand next month, the company, founded in 1946, will have 28 locations. In 2014, Festival purchased Vos Sentry in Fort Atkinson and a year later opened a 78,000-square-foot store at 2233 Humes Road in Janesville. In 2016, Festival opened a 55,000-square-foot store on the ground floor of Gebhardt Development’s $65 million Galaxie building in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue in Madison.