When Festival Foods announced in May that it was buying Pierce’s Markets in West Baraboo and Portage, it left many wondering about the fate of the Pierce’s store in Muscoda.

The answer came last month when Iowa-based Bender’s Foods purchased the 17,000-square-foot store located a block off Main Street in downtown Muscoda.

Randy Bender said the purchase of Pierce’s last remaining store was a good fit for his company and comes as he and his family plan to build a $5 million, 22,000-square-foot store in Fennimore that would replace the existing store that is about 10,000 square feet.

“We just can’t do what we need to do in a 10,000-square-foot space,” Bender said. “We just can’t give them the selection and prices in a smaller box.”

The Benders also have stores in Guttenburg and Bellevue, Iowa, and have been in the grocery business for decades. Randy Bender’s father was in management with Randall’s Foods in South Dakota and Iowa. Randy Bender went into management training with Randall’s after high school and in 1986, opened his own grocery store in Denver, Iowa, before he and his wife, Marta, built the Bellevue store in 1991. Fennimore was added to the family business in 2002 and Guttenburg in 2004.

For the Muscoda store, the 25 employees have been retained and the Benders plan to paint and replace aging fixtures. The store is the only grocery store in the village, although a Family Dollar store is under construction in the community of 1,249 people along the Wisconsin River.

“It’s what we do,” Bender said of operating grocery stores in small towns. “It’s as much of a service as it is a retail business. You have to serve the community.”

Festival has 28 locations, including one in Madison, and in May announced plans for a 68,000-square-foot store in Verona on East Verona Avenue, just east of Farm & Fleet.

— Barry Adams

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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