Just Local Food Cooperative plans to move its grocery operation to a new spot less than a mile away, keeping with the local grocer’s plan to continue serving the downtown area.
The store, which has long outgrown its current location, said Friday it will relocate from South Farwell and Washington streets to Aspenson Mogensen Hall on Water Street with a tentative move-in date planned for October.
Maria Bamonti, general manager of the cooperative that emphasizes locally grown and manufactured food, said the letter of intent to occupy the east side of the building in the 200 block of the street, adjacent to the parking lot, was signed by the cooperative Thursday.
Aspenson Mogensen Hall, which opened last fall, was built initially with the intention of housing a grocery store, bank, office space and insurance company on the first floor, and was particularly attractive to the cooperative because of its location. Local developer and business owner John Mogensen owns the first floor of the four-story building.
“We wanted to be within two miles of the current store so we could continue to serve the same area,” Bamonti said. “As a bonus, we’re closer to campus.”
About 200 UW-Eau Claire students who live in the top three floors of Aspenson Mogensen Hall will have direct access to the grocery store. That part of the building is owned by Blugold Real Estate Foundation, the real estate arm of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
Kimera Way, executive director of Blugold Real Estate and president of the foundation, called the convenient access to a grocery store for students a “win-win.”
“We’re supporting the local economy as well as providing value-added experiences for our students,” she said.
Bamonti said the cooperative was looking to expand to about 10,000 square feet, a significant upgrade from the 2,000 square feet it has outgrown at its location at the bottom of the Plank Street Hill, which it’s occupied since 2008.
The move of Just Local Food to Water Street will mark a return of a grocery store to that area of town since the closure of Kerm’s in 2008.
“It’s very exciting that there’s going to be a grocery store there,” said Mike Schatz, the city’s economic development director. “There’s a lot of new things happening down there, and it’s going into an area considered to be a food desert.”
Plans aren’t yet known for what will move into Just Local Food’s current location.
Schatz said the city could work with building owner Mark Wise to find another tenant for the building. Some ideas floated around by city workers include a bookstore, coffee shop or brewpub.
“There’s a high density of residents around it,” Schatz said of the location.
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