Gordy's Markets

Gordy’s Market stores in several rural communities are being bought by other grocers, giving mayors in those cities relief that residents and vacationers that frequented those locations won’t have to drive elsewhere to shop for food.

Cornell Mayor Judy Talbot said she was relieved that the Gordy’s Market grocery store in Cornell will remain open and become a Family Fare Supermarket.

“There was the possibility (it could close), but the store is needed,” Talbot said. “It’s always been a busy store, so I always thought it would stay open.”

Nash Finch food distributor acquired five GMI stores — including those in Cornell, Barron and Chetek — earlier this month for $15.1 million in an auction, and they announced the plans to convert them to their Family Fare Supermarket brand.

If the Cornell store had closed, it would have meant a lengthy drive to the closest grocery, she added.

“It’s the closes store for residents in Gilman, Cadott and Holcombe,” she said. “If it had closed, Chippewa Falls or Ladysmith would have been your option — a half-hour to 45-minute drive.”

Talbot said the store is busy because there aren’t nearby options, and out-of-town visitors and tourists head there.

“It’s the last stop in the summertime,” she said. “You see a lot of vacationers stop for last-minute items. I think it’s a good money-maker.”

Talbot thanked Nash Finch for retaining the employees.

“It’s nice they’ll keep the people on,” Talbot said. “That will boost morale.”

Talbot said if the store had closed, “I’m sure we would have done something to get a grocery store. We have a large elderly population and it would have been very hard on them.”

It is still unknown if the store will be closed for a short period as the store transitions to a new name.

“We’ve heard nothing about any type of closing or remodeling,” Talbot said. “We still have to get the beer and liquor license transferred over. We haven’t gotten paperwork on that, either.”

The Gordy’s Market is the only grocery store in town. Talbot said there used to be another one that closed more than 30 years ago.

Barron, Chetek relieved

Barron Mayor Ron Fladten said there was quite a bit of concern the grocery store would close in his city, too.

“We were very concerned the first time (Gordy’s was sued in 2017) and in financial trouble,” Fladten said. “We’ve got to have a store here in Barron.”

Like Talbot, Fladten said his city has a significant elderly population that counts on a local store.

“The closest grocery, in Rice Lake, is 15 minutes away,” Fladten said.

He is optimistic now that Nash Finch is taking over the store.

“I hope this flies and we don’t have any bumps in the road,” Fladten said. “It’s certainly good news the store will remain open.”

Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin said that while the city’s population is 2,000, it is not uncommon for there to be several thousand more tourists in the area in summer months who depend on that local grocery store.

“We are far enough away from Rice Lake and Bloomer, and it’s a good location to have a store,” he said. “As a mayor of a small town, there isn’t a lot we can do (if it had closed). We’re really grateful we’ll have a store.”

Like Fladten, Martin admits he was worried when shelves became bare in the summer and fall of 2017 as Gordy’s was going through its first lawsuit from Nash Finch.

“It looked like a picture out of a Soviet-era store,” Martin said of the shelves at that time.

Martin said he routinely meets with senior citizens at events in town, and the future of the store was always a top concern, so he’s relieved Nash Finch is keeping the store open.

“We’re very happy things seem to be working out,” he said.

Stanley’s stores

The Gordy’s Market in Stanley, which closed in 2017, still doesn’t have any tenants, said Stanley Mayor Norm Christianson.

“They really haven’t been marketing (the building) much,” Christianson said. “We are open to anything, to get something in there.”

Stanley does have a Hansen’s IGA market in its downtown.

Christianson said Stanley also is reeling from the news that its Shopko Hometown will close. It has been open six or seven years on the north side of Highway 29, visible to tourists on the highway.

“We’ve done very well here with this Shopko,” Christianson said. It has been used quite a bit. It’s also the lost taxes for the city; the lost revenue it generates. It’s always nice to have a local facility. Hopefully someone will come forward and look at it.”

Many of the items that were sold at the Shopko Hometown can be found in other stores in town, he added.

“People are saying it’s just too bad, because the store was used quite a bit,” he said.

Earlier this week, Hansen’s IGA announced the acquisition of the Gordy’s Market Inc. location at 1031 W. Clairemont in Eau Claire, which means the end of the Schafer family operating Gordy’s stores in western Wisconsin.

SpartanNash, the corporate name of Nash Finch, owns and operates 86 Family Fare Supermarkets across Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

In 2017, there were 26 Gordy’s Market locations, but 20 of them were sold or closed by the end of that year.