Chippewa Falls Shopping Center
Posted: February 7, 2014
The announcement this week that Sears Holding Corp. will be closing the Kmart Stores in Chippewa Falls and Menomonie reminded me how fragile the local economy can be when it relies on major retailers to serve as anchors for area shopping centers. I am fairly confident that the Menomonie Kmart location will be leased to another tenant in the not-too-distant future, but the demise of the Kmart in Chippewa Falls may be the straw that breaks the camel's back for that particular strip center.
When Mega Foods closed its doors in April, 2012, some of the shopping plaza tenants began to look at their options for relocation. The owner of the UPS Store told me that his lease stipulates that if a major shopping center tenant were to close its doors, he would have 18 months to decide if he wishes to move to a new location. As it turns out, the UPS Store owner's lease will expire in October of this year and it is likely that he will be relocating to a different location in either the Village of Lake Hallie or Eau Claire.
Papa Murphy's did not renew its lease and moved last year to Hallie; Fashion Bug Plus went out of business. Otherwise, the Dollar Tree is the last remaining large tenant to occupy the shopping center that Kmart is vacating come May. There are a few smaller tenants but it is safe to say that they would rather be in a different location that provided a better traffic pattern.
It's a shame that Kmart could not make a go of it in Chippewa Falls. The corner of Highway 124 and Woodward Avenue is bustling with retail business. On the west side, Walgreens and Subway provide ample traffic. And on the other side of the highway, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Kwik Trip all seem to do good business. But the traffic going in and out of the shopping center was tough to negotiate.I can't tell you how many times I wanted to go to Arby's and forgot to pull into the shopping center parking lot only to have to go past Arby's and enter by Kmart.
One developer told me that the demise of the retail strip center was the construction of the new Highway 29 interchange. Another thought that Agree Realty Corp., the shopping center owner, may try to revamp the complex into a number of smaller users.
A friend of mine who manages the Big Lots in Eau Claire told me that corporate executives considered moving into the former Mega Foods location at one time. However, he said the traffic count did not justify an expansion to Chippewa Falls.
Either way, it looks bleak for the once-vibrant retail center that once had both a Kmart and grocery store in its mix.