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Hy-Vee logo

Iowa-based grocery store chain Hy-Vee has signed a purchase agreement for a vacant big box retail store on a major thoroughfare in Eau Claire.

Shuttered by beleaguered retailer Kmart four years ago, a Hy-Vee official said the prominent location at 2424 E. Clairemont Ave. could become home to a Hy-Vee Foods store.

“We are excited to work on a redevelopment in this market,” said Tina Potthoff, Hy-Vee’s vice president of communications.

Details of the project and a timeline for it were not yet available on Thursday when the Leader-Telegram reached Potthoff by phone.

While the size and different features of a potential Eau Claire store are not yet known, Potthoff did point out some of the amenities found in the company’s existing locations that she said sets them apart from other grocers.

In addition to usual grocery offerings, Hy-Vee stores can feature areas akin to food courts with different kinds of cuisine, hot grab-and-go comfort food dishes, hibachi grills and almost every Hy-Vee has an in-store pharmacy.

Potthoff noted that stores also use dietitians to help advise customers who want help picking out foods that fit their dietary or health concerns.

When asked why the West Des Moines, Iowa-based grocer was interested in Eau Claire, Potthoff said the company didn’t yet have a presence in the area and feels it can offer something new and unique to customers here.

“We’re always looking for new locations, and this will be a nice fit for us,” she said.

Hy-Vee has 249 stores in eight states — Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Currently it has three stores in Wisconsin — two in Madison and one in neighboring Fitchburg.

Hy-Vee has also gotten involved in the burger restaurant chain Wahlburgers made famous via owners including actors Donnie and Mark Wahlberg and a reality show that takes place in one of the eateries. Hy-Vee has announced it is opening its fourth and fifth Wahlburgers locations in the Wisconsin cities of Milwaukee and Brookfield.

Kmart closed the Eau Claire store in February 2015. Deterioration of the parking lot outside the store recently prompted city buses to avoid it, and barricades have been put up so motorists don’t damage their cars by driving through it as a short cut.

The 120,000-square-foot store opened in 1963 and sits on 10 acres on Clairemont Avenue, which is the name for the section of U.S. 12 that passes through Eau Claire.

Contact: 715-833-9204, andrew.dowd@ecpc.com, @ADowd_LT on Twitter