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With Wisconsin In Political Spotlight, Grocers Ready For Home Stretch

Wisconsin, Madison
[gn_note color=”#FFCC00″]The 2012 Wisconsin Profile originally ran in the October 2012 edition of The Shelby Report of the Midwest.[/gn_note]

by Terrie Ellerbee/associate editor

Wisconsin has been “under a tsunami of political activity,” says Brandon Scholz, president of the Wisconsin Grocers Association (WGA).

Since the 2010 elections, four state senators and the lieutenant governor have faced recall elections, as did Gov. Scott Walker. The recalls came as Gov. Walker and the state’s Republican-majority legislature cut collective bargaining rights for most public workers, and they brought the white-hot glare of the national media to Madison.

But Walker and most of the others prevailed. Walker is the first U.S. governor to win a recall election. Gubernatorial recalls occurred just twice before in the nation’s history, and in both those cases the sitting governor lost.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch won her recall election, as did three of the sitting Republican state senators, by winning the June 5 recall election. In addition, a Republican won a spot that had been open since March, when the senator holding that seat resigned.

Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard conceded following a tight race with Democrat challenger John Lehman. That loss gave Democrats the majority in the state senate that had belonged to Republicans.

Then this summer Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney selected U.S. Sen. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin as his running mate. That not only “elevated Wisconsin again in the political world,” as Scholz put it, but also left an open U.S. senate seat.

Running for that seat are former Wisconsin governor and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, who had to defeat two Republican challengers in a primary, and Democrat U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

As is customary, the WGA has backed, met with, supported and endorsed candidates.

“That’s a big part of what we do,” Scholz said. “It always has been.”

The WGA has endorsed Thompson, who grew up “polishing eggs when he was a kid in his dad’s store,” Scholz said. “He has been a longtime supporter of the grocery business.”

As Nov. 6 nears, the state’s citizens are ready to catch their breath, but until then Wisconsin remains central to ­national ­politics because it is a critical swing state for the presidential candidates.

“It’s just been one campaign after another without any break, without any break for businesses that care about these elections and the candidates, but also for voters as well,” Scholz said. “We’re in the home stretch and I think everybody is looking ­forward to having that stretch end. It has really dominated our landscape and our news.”

WGA honors excellence among its members

In the meantime, Scholz has been out in the state surprising winners of WGA awards for Grocers of the Year, Excellence in Operations, Community Service and Vendor of the Year. Often the winners’ families are made aware of the honor before Scholz’s visit and the announcement turns into something of a surprise party.

“We’ve had a lot of road time and face time out amongst our membership, which is a great thing because sometimes people in my job can’t get out as much as they like to, so it’s really been a great summer,” Scholz said. “That’s the best part of my job.”

The WGA accepts nominations for the awards and then ­features the winners in Wisconsin Grocer, the WGA’s official magazine. Awards were presented formally and winners ­honored at WGA’s Innovation Expo, which was held this Sept. 25-26.

The 2012 Grocer of the Year Award went to:

• Tim and Kevin Metcalfe, Metcalfe’s Market in Madison and Wauwatosa. The Metcalfe brothers are fourth-generation grocers. Both started their grocery ­careers when they were 12 years old. They purchased the business from their father, Tom, in 2001. In 2003, the brothers bought a Sentry store in Wauwatosa, which they remodeled two years later. The store’s sales have tripled since then. In 2008, they added 10,000 s.f. to their Hilldale store, which in 1999 had been remodeled and expanded by 5,000 s.f. In January, the brothers purchased a former Cub Foods store from Supervalu.

The Metcalfes offer a unique corporate health and wellness program for its 500-plus employees as well as a 10 percent discount when they shop in the stores.

The Metcalfe brothers operate one of the greenest grocery stores in the country, reaching 100 percent green-powered in 2010 and achieving a Zero Waste Initiative in 2011 by ­composting 130 tons annually from landfill to farm.

They also have given more than 50,000 Black Hills spruce saplings to customer in honor of Earth Week since 2008. Greenpeace magazine ranks Metcalfe’s Market as No. 1 in Wisconsin and No. 8 in the country for sustainable seafood.

In 2008, the brothers introduced an in-store program called Metcalfe’s Food Miles that consists of more than 2,500 local foods from hundreds of local farms. Each item is sourced from Wisconsin or within 150 miles of the state capital or the Wauwatosa store. The products are given a “mile marker” to show how far they traveled to get to the store.

Their annual Brat Fest, held every Memorial Day weekend since 2005, is one of the largest annual fundraisers created by an independent grocer owner in the U.S. In 2010, a record 209,376 brats were consumed in 41 hours under one tent.

The Metcalfes have raised more than $1 million for more than 100 charities and more than $280,000 since 2004 for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The Metcalfes and their stores have been honored for many awards, from a commercial design award for the Hilldale renovation to best outdoor festival to awards for their continued support of local charities.

The 2012 Excellence in Operations Award was given to six people:

• Jim Albrecht, Sentry, Delafield. Albrecht was recognized for his long and successful career, fostering a healthy work environment by sending employees to trade shows and seminars to learn about trends and strategies, as well as his commitment to the environment and for giving back to the community.

• Frank Betchkal, Marketplace Foods, Menomonie. Betchkal also was recognized for a long and successful career, for taking care of customers and employees, mentoring his sons to follow him in the grocery business, for giving back to the community through volunteering with the chambers of commerce in each town where he has stores and for assisting in fundraising for the local humane society and other nonprofit organizations.

• Kim Goodwin, Festival Foods, Mauston. Goodwin worked her way up from a cashier in 1995 to store director of Festival Foods in Mauston through her talent, drive, creativity and honesty. She sets an example for employees and fosters a learning environment, encouraging them to ask questions and help each other to make sure that all employees reach their full potential.

• Jeff Maurer, Fresh Madison Market, Madison. Mauer’s award is a result of his innovation. He made one of his dreams a reality this past year by starting the Freshmobile Initiative, which brings a 34-ft. racing trailer converted to a nonprofit grocery store to neighborhoods classified as food deserts. It offers approximately 400 food items and is approved for SNAP purchases. Maurer formed a nonprofit corporation, the Freshmobile Initiative, and started soliciting donations toward a $125,000 budget to get the initiative off the ground. He also supports local organizations and, using his location at University of Wisconsin-Madison, tests ideas like the giving customers the ability to scan an item with a smartphone to find out if it was made in Wisconsin.

• Cindy Puent, Burnstad’s Market, Tomah. Puent has worked with Burnstad’s Market for the last 38 years and as director of human resources and administrative management for less than a year. She received her senior professional in Human Resources Certification in 2008, continues to educate herself and she serves on the local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) board of directors. As president of that group, she went to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators on HR matters. She is a member of the WGA’s HR Share Group.

• Rob Webster, Ripon Pick ’n Save. Webster is very good to his employees. He remembers their birthdays and holds banquets in their honor, in addition to offering them other events like company picnics. Webster cares about the community, too, sponsoring local events like Relay for Life. He also formed the Webster Foundation in 2002, which has ­donated more than $464,000 to various organizations and scholarships.

The 2012 Community Service Award was given to four individuals and one grocery family:

• Derek Burnstad, Burnstad’s Markets, Tomah. Burnstad is VP and director of operations for Burnstad’s Markets, which has four stores in Tomah, Black River Falls, Richland Center and Spencer. He is known for organizing the Christmas in July Foundation that has donated more than $30,000 worth of toys to local families over the past three years. He also volunteers on several community boards.

• Linda Lippens, Kwik Trip, Watertown. Lippens, who has worked for Kwik Trip since 1997, has used her position as store leader to help those less fortunate. She has served as coordinator of Loaves and Fishes since June 2010. The organization provides a free meal every Monday night for those in need in the Watertown area and holds clothing drives and monthly blood pressure checks.

• Sherry Salfai, Red’s Piggly Wiggly, Omro. Salfai asks team leaders at the store to volunteer with the organizations of their choice and encourages them to buy local. She has organized grocery deliveries to local seniors, led an initiative to add a canine officer to the local police force and worked to make Omro a Main Street Community, which the city achieved in August 2011.

• Jodi Wautlet, Denny’s Supervalu, Algoma. Wautlet volunteers with the local chamber of commerce and is on the board of Farm Market Kitchen, which acts as a resource for people who want to produce and market products. She has opened a section of the store for people to sell their items so they can test their marketability. She also is active in “Denny’s Community Dollars,” a program that collects customers’ register receipts and then donates a percentage of the quarterly total to local charities.

• Ted, Nick and Patrick Balistreri and Margaret Harris, Sendik’s Food Markets. The four siblings were recognized for their support for Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin since 2008 through donations, financial gift and in-store promotions, including food and school supply drives. Through their efforts, Sendik’s has been able to donate $97,500 and 1.3 million pounds of food to the organization. They also support the MACC Fund, Penfield Children’s Center, After Cancer Diagnosis and many others, donating more than $75,000 in the past year.

Lipari Foods received the 2012 Vendor of the Year Award.

• Lipari Foods will celebrate its 50th year in 2013. It has ­experienced tremendous growth over the last 15 years. The company sponsors the Great Wisconsin Bag-Off and other WGA events, including the Sept. 25 buffet at the WGA Innovation Expo.

Meijer moves into sixth state with Wisconsin sites

As new players come in and older players exit, there is room for independent grocery retailers in Wisconsin to grow, and some have been taking advantage of the depressed commercial real estate market to do just that.

But the competition will be a bit tougher in some markets, like in the Milwaukee area, which has drawn the attention of supercenter pioneer Meijer Inc. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer will move into its sixth state as it reportedly scouts sites for four grocery and general merchandise stores and a distribution center.

Meijer plans to open its first Wisconsin store in 2014 at the corner of Highway 100 and West Loomis Road in Franklin, according to The Business Journal. The retailer has proposed a 191,350-s.f. full-service grocery store with a drive-thru pharmacy, garden center and an array of general merchandise.

Meijer plans to break ground on the project in 2013 so the store can open the following year, said Brian Randall, an ­attorney with Milwaukee-based Friebert Finerty & St. John SC, who is representing Meijer in Wisconsin.

BizTimes.com reports that Meijer’s other proposals include a 191,000-s.f. store on Port Washington Road in Grafton and a 157,000-s.f. store at 11123 W. Burleigh St. in Wauwatosa.

Also in Meijer’s plans is a 21-acre farm near Sussex at Highway 164 and Lisbon Road, where it would build its fourth Milwaukee-area store that like the others would open in spring 2014, The Journal reports. Meijer is seeking approval for a 191,350-s.f. store with a gas station and two outlots for ­additional retail development.

Meijer also is looking to buy more than 100 acres in Racine or Kenosha counties to build a distribution center that could be upward of 1 million s.f., according to real estate sources. The company has been exploring sites of at least 100 acres in southeast Wisconsin for the distribution center for more than a year. The project would be a ground-up development, ­according to The Business Journal.

The trucking facility would likely be located near Interstate 94 in Racine or Kenosha counties, an area lined with ­business parks.

Meijer currently has four distribution facilities in the Midwest.

More regional retailers expand in state

In 2009, Hy-Vee Inc. opened its first Wisconsin location at 3801 E. Washington Ave. The Iowa-based, employee-owned grocery company is building an 80,500-s.f. store following the demolition of the south end of Westgate Mall in Madison at Whitney Way and Odana Road.

The Westgate Hy-Vee is one of two stores planned for Dane County. Work on the other, an 85,425-s.f. store located in the Orchard Pointe development in Fitchburg, began this summer.

The Westgate Hy-Vee is expected to open in spring 2013 and the Fitchburg store in the summer. Each will employ about 400 people.

The Fresh Market opened April 25 in Fox Point at 8705 N. Port Washington Rd. in RiverPoint Shopping Center. It is the second Fresh Market store in Wisconsin. The first is in Brookfield. The Greensboro, N.C.-based company’s store is more than 21,000 s.f., taking up the upper-half of a former Borders Bookstore. It features 30 baked breads, 14 varieties of pies made daily, a full-service meat counter, fresh seafood delivered multiple times per week and more than 200 imported and domestic cheeses.

Wisconsin-based retailers expand

The new Woodman’s Market at 1099 S. Grand Ave. in Sun Prairie opened on Aug. 16. The opening was expected to take place in September, but warm weather earlier this year helped construction go smoothly, Clint Woodman, VP of the Janesville-based, employee-owned company, told the Wisconsin State Journal.

The new 225,000-s.f. store employs 225 people. It was built with energy efficiency in mind. LED lights are on the refrigerated cases with door and food-chilling units use glycol instead of freon, Woodman told the paper.

The store has wide aisles and more space has been given to international and natural and organic foods. It also features a liquor store. A gas and lube center is coming soon, the company’s website says.

Woodman’s Food Market Inc. bought Spancrete Industries’ former Waukesha facility site for a new store. Ground was broken on May 31 for the 239,000-s.f. store. Construction began following the demolition of the Spancrete facility. The store, which will include a new gas and lube center, is expected to open by late summer 2013. The Waukesha location will have a gas station on an outlot in the parking lot.

In mid-April, Chippewa Valley-based Gordy’s County Market opened its eighth location on Eau Claire’s southwest side in a former Ron’s Castle Foods. The new store is located at 1031 W. Clairemont Ave. and is the third Gordy’s store in Eau Claire.

Minnesota-based Cub Foods, a Supervalu ­banner, closed its last Wisconsin store on Jan. 11 in Madison. As previously mentioned, the store at 7455 Mineral Point Rd., reopened 10 days later as a Metcalfe’s Market. The 67,000-s.f. grocery store features a large deli, more than 2,500 ­locally produced food items and a full-service meat counter.

Tomah-based Burnstad’s Market celebrated the opening of its fourth retail grocery store April 24 in Spencer. The 18,500-s.f. facility also is a former Supervalu property and now employs 35 people.

The full-service supermarket highlights Burnstad’s Market’s signature fresh bakery, homemade deli, fresh produce and meat departments as well as fully stocked grocery, frozen, dairy and liquor departments. Derek Burnstad, mentioned above, and Kent Burnstad own and operate the company.

The Skogen family celebrated the opening of its 16th Festival Foods store in the Village Market Center, 2500 State Rd., in La Crosse last Nov. 11. Family-owned Skogen’s/Festival Foods is based in Onalaska.

The Quillin family sold two stores to Skogen’s Festival Foods last year: the Village Market location and one at the Shelby Mall at 3954 Mormon Coulee Rd. The latter served the community while the new Village Market store was under construction.

The new Festival Foods store employs 170 people who previously worked for Quillin’s Foods in the same location.

In May, Mark Skogen, president and CEO of Festival Foods, stated in his blog that work on a new store in Neenah would take the better part of 2012. The 74,000-s.f. store at 651 S. Green Bay Rd. will feature a variety of natural and organic foods, fresh sushi, a healthy-choices salad bar, an extensive deli and meat selection, a wine and spirit shop and catering services. It is expected to open this fall.

Also, Dave Skogen, chairman, celebrated his 55th anniversary with the company.

Trig’s in Stevens Point celebrated its 50th anniversary by giving away a 1963 convertible Corvette, holding a one-day anniversary sale with the store decorated in 1960s motif and employees dressed as if it were 1962, as well as hosting a specially-priced cookout, a 60-hour sale and the grand prize drawing. The Budweiser Clydesdales’ eight-horse hitch made an appearance, too. On one day of the celebration, 50 demos took place in the store at once supported by 50 local groups raising money for their causes.

The store has been known by various names under different owners—Ray’s Red Owl, Hal’s Red Owl, Hal’s Food Store, Point County Market, Trig’s County Market—and has been serving Portage County for 50 years.

Trig’s is part of the larger T.A. Solberg Co., which purchased LaPorte’s Markets in Manitowish Waters. Beginning May 13, it became the company’s first Village Market, a fresh, high-service grocery store. The company also operates Tula’s Café in Minocqua, several fuel and convenience stores throughout northern and central Wisconsin, Trig’s Central Bakery and Trucking Facility, Trig’s Recycling Center and the Tasmania Northwoods Resort.

Nehring’s Family Market opened June 1 at Milwaukee Public Market at 400 N. Water St. in the 3rd Ward. The store offers gourmet groceries, fresh meats and some retail products in a space located in the center of the market across from West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe.

Nehring’s other stores include Sendik’s on Oakland in Shorewood, V. Richard’s in Brookfield and G. Groppi Food Market in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.

Hanke’s Supervalu is building a new store in Wittenberg on the corner of Mission Street and Grand Avenue. Construction began in early May and was about to open as The Shelby Report went to press.

Hanke’s Supervalu has been in Wittenberg for more than 60 years. The store started as a small Red Owl store on a ­corner in Wittenberg when Roger Hanke rented the store from Warner Kreitzer.

The new store will be almost three times the size of their current store, allowing the Hankes to offer new departments and items for sale. The meat, produce, frozen foods and grocery selections will all be enlarged. A deli, a bakery and a liquor department will be new additions.

Roundy’s opened a new 69,911-s.f. Copps Market store at 1500 Pinecrest Ave. in Stevens Point Aug. 7. The new Copps Market banner is designed to modernize the brand, said Bob Mariano, CEO of Roundy’s.

The new store features 1,000 different varieties of produce. It also has a new dining area with a television and fireplace and an outdoor seating area. There also is a beer garden with expanded offerings that include local beer as well as liquor. Point Brewery is brewing Bricks & Barley, which Roundy’s alone will sell.

Late last year, Roundy’s had announced its plans to build the larger store in Stevens Point and to close two smaller stores ­located at 3256 Church St. and 5657 E. Highway 10.

In addition, the store at 1850 Plover Rd. in Plover has been expanded and remodeled, growing from 41,110 s.f. to 50,700 s.f. It also debuted as a Copps Market with larger bakery, meat, health and beauty, pharmacy and pet supplies areas.

All 176 employees from the two closing Stevens Point locations were offered jobs at either the new Copps Market or at the Plover store. The company also hired 74 additional employees.

A 68,642-s.f. Pick ‘n Save store that had been in operation since 1987 moved to a new 64,300-s.f. location in Crossroad Shopping Center in Menomonee Falls. The shopping center expanded by 30,000 s.f. with the Pick ‘n Save moving from the east side of the shopping center to the middle.

On Feb. 7, a new 71,000-s.f. southside Pick ’n Save store opened on South Business Drive. It replaced a Pick ’n Save at 1313 Calumet Rd.

Piggly Wiggly Midwest gained several new additions this year. Piggly Wiggly and the Majdecki family announced two additions to the Piggly Wiggly family of supermarkets. The two stores, the West Allis Sentry and Menomonee Falls Sentry, began operating under the Piggly Wiggly Banner Aug. 23. The stores are currently owned and operated by Ted and Joan Majdecki, who have run supermarkets in West Allis for the past 11 years and in Menomonee Falls for the last eight years.

While the Majdeckis will continue to own and operate the West Allis store, they announced that Don and Jill Peiffer took over the Menomonee Falls location. Don had been the store manager in Menomonee Falls, and Jill was employed as a scan coordinator.

“My family and I are extremely happy to become the Piggly Wiggly franchisee owners in Menomonee Falls,” Don Peiffer said. “In addition to providing quality products and amenities, we look forward to continuing the great work currently being done in the ­community.”

Remodels are planned for both stores this year.

On Aug. 23, Sendik’s Elmbrook store in Brookfield also became a Piggly Wiggly. The store had been supplied by Piggly Wiggly Midwest since June 2011. The store ownership, Sal Sendik and his two sons John and Tony remained the same.

Piggly Wiggly Midwest plans to open a new store in Beloit in a former Kmart building at 1827 Prairie Ave. The 80,000-s.f. building will be subdivided and renovated to ­create a shopping center anchored by a 50,000-s.f. Piggly Wiggly with six to eight additional shops.

Piggly Wiggly Midwest, based in Sheboygan where it has operated since 1911, will now supply 101 Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in the greater Wisconsin and northern Illinois areas, as well as nine Butera Market stores, two Euro Fresh stores in the Chicagoland area plus three Lena’s Food in the Milwaukee area. The company has three distribution centers—two in Sheboygan and one in Milwaukee. Piggly Wiggly Midwest is the fastest growing grocery wholesaler in the state.

Retailers with national presence open new stores

National retailers that have opened new stores in the state include Save-A-Lot, which opened a store on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Keshena and Aldi, which opened in Greenfield.

Trader Joe’s is opening a newly built store in Brookfield in October at N. 128th Street and W. Blue Mound Road.

Target opened a 135,000-s.f. store nearby at 12821 W. Blue Mound Rd.

Wisconsin’s first Walmart Neighborhood Market opened on June 20 at 3850 N. 124th St. in Wauwatosa, and Milwaukee’s first opened on Aug. 1 at West Main and S. 70th Street. In addition, a 41,000-s.f. Neighborhood Market is coming to 5625 Washington Ave. in Mount Pleasant. The developer expects to break ground before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Walmart dropped plans to build a Neighborhood Market in Elmwood Park due to opposition from a group called “Friends of the Village of Elmwood Park.”

Image credit: benkrut / 123RF Stock Photo

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