Why Downtown Eau Claire Was Right for Expansion
A bigger grocery store in downtown Eau Claire… This has been a goal or a wish for those involved in downtown redevelopment for many years! Ever since Royal Credit Union built its corporate center in 2004 and became the anchor project, downtown has been on the road to renewal. Yet it took almost 20 years for the dream of a new grocery store to be realized.
For decades, the City of Eau Claire has engaged in strategic and comprehensive planning, winning many awards for its planning processes and documents. The downtown area has been the focus of several planning exercises, including offering community members the opportunity to participate and give their input. The results of that planning can be seen in the exciting revitalization occurring to this day.
Early on in the planning process, a grocery store was identified as a need. At least one failed attempt was made to fill that need, and since then, the population of both residents and workers in downtown it would serve has grown exponentially. Our co-op’s bigger location, scheduled to open this fall, will be a full-service grocery store with a robust deli. In addition, our owners will make up a majority of the customers, and for many, the new store will be a destination shopping opportunity.
Once it’s completed, the bigger grocery will be another anchor project in the North Barstow area that will turn Eau Claire’s downtown food desert into an oasis with healthy and delicious local food year-round. It will also serve the nearby neighborhoods such as North River Fronts, West Riverside, and Randall Park. It will serve the needs of the ever-growing downtown residential population, as well as those who work in the many commercial entities such as Royal Credit Union and JAMF. And now that it will be conveniently located next to the Eau Claire Children’s Museum, the opportunities for cooperation abound.
Before the merger in 2021, board members at Just Local Food Co-op also held planning sessions and discussions about a possible expansion of the store. The one consistent goal for that board was that any new store should be located downtown. Fortunately, the post-merger board shared the same goal, and we were eager to seize the opportunity to build on North Barstow Street’s Lot #7 when it became available.
Our Ends Statement begins with the vision that “Menomonie Market Food Co-op will be central to thriving, healthy communities.” How better to fulfill that purpose than by locating our new store in the center of the community in downtown Eau Claire?
This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.