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Fate of beloved East Side grocer to be determined at auction

Fate of beloved East Side grocer to be determined at auction

Jenifer Street Market

Supporters are rallying to help the Jenifer Street Market buy the building that houses the grocery.

Customers of a longtime East Side Madison grocery are hoping its owners will submit the winning bid next week to buy the building the business has called home for more than 40 years — and by so doing ensure the grocery’s existence for many years to come.

To better the Jenifer Street Market’s chances, a neighborhood group is looking to raise $100,000 toward the effort — largely with no strings attached.

The future of the market at 2038 Jenifer St. was thrown into doubt in October, when the company that owns its building, Schoep’s Ice Cream, entered receivership. The Schoep’s facility on Division Street is connected to the market property.

On Monday, the market’s owners will be one of the bidders to gather at the Madison Concourse Hotel for an auction of the grocery property and 11 other Schoep’s assets, Jenifer Street co-owner Stephen McKenzie said. Potential buyers will be separated from one another and initially will not know the amounts of competing bids as the court-ordered receiver circulates among them to get the best price, he said. The money raised will go to pay off Schoep’s more than 60 listed creditors.

McKenzie said the grocery was the first to put in an offer about three weeks ago on the approximately 10,000-square-foot store and adjoining 15,000-square-foot parking lot. For competitive reasons, he declined to reveal the amount of the bid. The property was most recently assessed at $454,000.

He didn’t know how many other bids there are and Schoep’s receiver, Milwaukee attorney Michael Polsky, did not respond to requests for comment. McKenzie, though, said the market’s seen a lot of visitors lately who weren’t there to pick up a loaf of bread or six-pack of beer — they were scoping out the property’s potential.

“I do expect there to be a lot of bidders,” he said.

Meanwhile, a new group called the SASY Business Development Association was formed specifically to preserve the store. SASY stands for Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara, the name of a nearby neighborhood.

President and founder Trevor Fink said Friday morning that in nine days the group raised in excess of $50,000 from hundreds of donors. The money is not included in the market owner’s bid as that was submitted before the fundraising started, but Fink said if the money is needed at auction to make the market the winner, it’s available.

The only requirement is that the market remain at its current location or at some new site within a half-mile of the current site.

“As long as the market stays in the neighborhood, then that money goes to them,” he said.

If the money is not needed — either because the market loses at auction or wins with its existing bid — donors will get their money back, he said.

Work needed

McKenzie predicted that without the neighborhood’s help, it’s “very probable that the numbers would not work out.”

He said Schoep’s has neglected the market property’s upkeep in recent years and it likely needs from $110,000 to $150,000 in improved insulation and mechanicals, exterior work and other items.

Fink said that money raised by his group could be used for such work if the work is required by a developer that intends to keep the store in the neighborhood. McKenzie said he could envision a outcome in which a developer buys the entire Schoep’s property then sells the market property to the market.

“This fund is not meant for general upgrades to the store, only to supplement the bid or help pay for the costs associated with the process,” Fink said.

Personal options

McKenzie said he and the other owner are prepared to tap into personal home equity and other personal sources to help pay for the purchase. Fink said he was satisfied the business had a genuine need for neighbors’ financial help.

“I’m overwhelmed at the customer support in this,” McKenzie said. “These people have taken ownership in that store.”

The market is in a neighborhood mixed-use zoning district, which under city ordinance could allow the market property to be redeveloped for a wide variety of uses, although some come with specific conditions. Uses range from single-family homes and apartments to retailers and liquor stores to coffee shops and restaurants.

The Schoep’s receivership case is next scheduled to be in Dane County Circuit Court on Wednesday.

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