New Year 2105
Posted: January 9, 2015
As the new year slowly gets started, this is the editorial where I look into my crystal ball to see what business activity may occur in the Chippewa Valley in 2015. Last year, I was right about a few things, but wrong about a couple of others.
In 2014, I was correct when I predicted that the region would see an uptick in the gas/convenience store industry. Thanks to Kwik Trip, which opened a store along Black Avenue at the North Crossing interchange and another at the corner of Brian Street and Mall Drive in the Town of Washington, the past year showed that this area apparently doesn't have a glut of gas stations.
I was incorrect, though, when I predicted that the Mega/Holiday gas/convenience store chain would grow through an acquisition. It may still occur, but my sources tell me the deal is off of the table for the time being.
Fortunately, I was also wrong when I predicted that a new roundabout would be constructed in the Village of Lake Hallie. Small business owners swayed the Village of Lake Hallie Board last fall when they discouraged development of a series of roundabouts along Business Highway 53. For now, those projects have been put on hold.
This will be the year that we should see something happen to any one of three former Kmart buildings in the Chippewa Valley. The Kmarts in Chippewa Falls and Menomonie closed in May, 2014, and the Eau Claire facility will be closing in February. Since the Chippewa Falls former Kmart is located in the Chippewa Commons, which was recently purchased by the Schafer family (owners of Gordy's County Markets), there is a chance that a larger retailer would expand to this market.
But since the soon-to-be former Kmart in Eau Claire is owned by the Eau Claire Consumers Cooperative Association (parent company of Mega Foods and Mega/Holiday) and Commonweal Development, it is not likely that another grocer would move into the region. Likewise, with Commonweal busy securing funding for the proposed Confluence Project in downtown Eau Claire, one would wonder whether the principal owners of Commonweal have time to deal with a large vacant commercial building on East Clairemont Avenue.
All in all, with the economy showing signs of steady improvement and continued low gas prices, there should be more money available for small business owners do some positive things for the Chippewa Valley in 2015.