Festival Foods is coming to Hartford. The story broke Monday night on WashingtonCountyInsider.com
“We’re hoping to start construction in 2021 with an opening in 2022,” said Brian Stenzel with Festival Foods.
The company is family and employee-owned and operates 31 full-service, state-of-the art supermarkets in Wisconsin. On December 18, 2020 it closed on the purchase of Hartford Plaza.
The location, 1201 Bell Avenue, and 1275 Bell Avenue, had been vacant more than four years following the departure of Sentry Foods to the west and Kmart to the east.
“We looked through numerous opportunities that come across our desk and we just saw the community as one that we could serve well with our store,” Stenzel said.
The grocery is expected to bring about 200 new jobs to the community both full and part time.
While Festival Foods plans to open in the old Kmart section of the strip mall, Stenzel said they are keeping their options open on the west side of the property. “We have no plans at this time,” he said. “We will look at opportunities for that space on down the road.”
This will be the first new grocery for the City of Hartford since Aldi opened in mid-December 2014 and Walmart opened in May 2007. Questioned whether the company is nervous about the current uncertainty in the economy Stenzel said building new store is always a gamble.
“We believe it is a good, calculated risk just because of what we have to offer,” he said. “We have great customer service and our model of serving the community with a clean, inviting grocery store is something we take great pride in.”
Although the strip-mall property has been on the market a while and is a bit set back from Highway 60 it does sit near, what some say, is a diamond corner with McDonald’s, Walgreens, and Kwik Trip.
“We always look for areas that have a lot of rooftops to be convenient for people to shop or a busy hub where people can get a lot of things done outside of grocery shopping as well,” Stenzel said.
While the news about a Hartford opening is settling in there was some rumbling about a Festival Foods opening to the south in Menomonee Falls. Stenzel said “there is nothing confirmed there.”
The City of Hartford is unique in that its liquor ordinance prevents any grocery or convenience store from selling alcohol. The ordinance was passed to protect the mom-and-pop liquor stores in the community.
Currently Hartford has four liquor stores including Hartford Wine and Spirits on Sumner Street, B&S Liquor on S. Grand Avenue, Hilldale Liquor on E. Sumner Street, and Stop-N-Go Convenience Center.
Stenzel said the alcohol ordinance did not impact their decision. “It is something we will certainly work with the City and certainly obey any ordinance that is in place,” he said. “It is nothing that swayed our decision one way or the other.”
Hartford Plaza sold
The Hartford Plaza located south of Highway 60 and just west of County Highway K in the City of Hartford has sold. The Washington County Register of Deeds reports the two parcels, 1201 Bell Avenue, and 1275 Bell Avenue, sold December 18, 2020.
Equitable Bank sold both parcels to MKB Hartford II LLC for $925,000 each.
MKB Hartford II LLC is listed as “a Wisconsin Domestic Limited-Liability Company filed on December 4, 2020. The company’s filing status is listed as Organized and its File Number is M113433. The Registered Agent on file for this company is Kirk Stoa and is located at 3800 Emerald Dr E, Onalaska, WI 54650.”
Kirk Stoa and 3800 Emerald Drive in Onalaska is also the address tied to Festival Foods and Stoa is listed as Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer at Festival Foods.
Festival Foods defines itself as, “A family and employee-owned company that operates 31 full-service, state-of-the art supermarkets in WI.”
The closest Festival Foods are in Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Portage and Oshkosh.
City Administrator Steve Volkert was informed of the sale by WashingtonCountyInsider.com
“Residents have been interested in seeing a new owner for the building so there can be a new use for the facility,” said Volkert. “We’re looking forward to what will come.”
There are currently three businesses operating out of the strip mall including NAPA, Cost Cutters and Edward Jones Financial.
Volkert said the old Kmart, located on the east side of the strip mall, closed in early 2016. The Sentry Foods store, on the west endcap of the strip mall, closed around 2010.
This is a 17.79-acre site with 150,000 square foot multi-tenant shopping center.
The property was initially listed for lease in September 25, 2016.
ABOUT PROPERTY – Located in a high traffic area, surrounded by many prominent retailers, this property has tremendous potential for all incoming tenants. Built in 1990, with a 7,200 SF addition built in 1998. Lot size is 17.79 acres, with 800+ parking spaces, Zoned B-2 (Community Business District) 9 separate suites ranging from 1,200 SF to 86,480 SF. Located 5.5 miles west of I41
Volkert said the rumor mill has been running fast and furious the past year about potential incoming tenants.
“We’ve heard everything from an Amazon distribution center to Festival Foods,” he said. “Nothing has come before us or the Plan Commission.”
If a rumor about another grocery is true, can Hartford support four grocery stores? Hartford currently has Aldi, Walmart, and Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly (previously County Market).
“It is more than the City of Hartford to consider,” said Volkert. “So, you take a 5-mile radius outside of the city limits and that’s your market; if that is the case, they are obviously doing their due diligence for an additional grocery store.
“People may feel the City controls it but it is a lot of work done by the developer to research the community, the facility and the area and make a business decision that suits their needs. Blaming or giving credit to the City is not warranted because we haven’t been working with anybody.”
To add more fodder to the rumor mill is a job posting found on Google. While the post may say “Hartford” the location for the job is listed as Oak Creek, WI and then at the end of the post it also says “Hartford.”
Starbucks in Hartford
There appears to be a retail development boom in Hartford as a new Starbucks is expected to break ground in March or April 2021.
“Hartford is hot right now,” said Tom Hostad, executive director of the Hartford Area Development Corporation. “People are looking at what can come here and I do see 2021 as a good year for commercial development in Hartford.”
Real estate firm Mid-America posted designs for the new store at 1502 E. Sumner Street; the property is formerly home to the Clark gas station and car wash. That property was posted for sale in February 2019. It featured 8 pumping stalls, 38-feet for frontage on Highway 60, the car wash and convenience store. The building dated to 1980 and the assessment was $563,800.
According to Mid-America the new construction would feature a side-by-side development with Starbucks opening to the west with a drive-thru. There would be additional 1,800 – 2,300 square feet available for lease on the east portion of the building.
City Administrator Steve Vokert said the construction was approved in 2020 by the Hartford Plan Commission but “at that time they had not verified what beverage business it was going to be.”
On Monday, WashingtonCountyInsider.com broke the story about Festival Foods purchasing the Hartford Plaza. The grocery will be developed in the former Kmart location on the east side of the mall. The west endcap, formerly home to Sentry Foods, has yet to be determined.
John Dyke, commercial real estate broker with Encore Real Estate said, that intersection in Hartford is the “holy grail of commercial real estate.”
“You have McDonald’s, Kwik Trip, and Walgreens and if you ever want to find the best corner in town this is it,” he said.
Dyke said the properties in that area sat empty for a while for one reason. “Amazon,” he said. “Who is building a big box store anymore. There are a lot of empty storefronts including Boston Store and Macys but we were always confident a grocery would go in there.”
When the Hartford Plaza first went on the market Dyke said Festival Foods and Menards were at the top of the list. “Now that Festival has committed development will be attractive to a lot of people because it brings so much foot traffic or car traffic,” he said. “It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of doubt to see a Buffalo Wild Wings (not confirmed) because Hartford is underserved for any high-level dining.”
The Ponderosa is currently under contract with an accepted offer; however, the property has not sold.
Festival Foods has confirmed it has not purchased that property. Ponderosa, 1285 E. Sumner Street, was listed in late November and had an accepted offer, according to real estate agents, within 10 days.
“Highway 60 in Hartford is going to develop; they have very good population growth and the affordable apartments coupled with the industrial park makes Hartford really attractive,” Dyke said.
Pete Rettler’s record-setting fundraiser celebrating 27 years of running
Pete Rettler of West Bend wrapped up 2020 in record fashion as he completed his 27th year of running daily and raised double the amount intended for the Wisconsin 9-11 Memorial in Kewaskum.
“I’ve been blown away by all the support,” said Rettler.
On New Year’s Day the newly minted grandfather pushed his 2-month-old granddaughter, Reagan, in a stroller 3.1 miles. To put a bow on the run Rettler also raised $4,700, far more than the $2,700 goal he set.
“We held a virtual event this year but I had 12 sponsors and we picked up $1,500 from 29 door prizes,” he said. “People were extremely generous and I received a lot of support from my colleagues at Moraine Park Technical College.”
Rettler’s running streak dates to January 1, 1994 and a bet made with a former wrestling teammate. The pair vowed to run daily for an entire year to return to their wrestling weight of 126 pounds. They both stayed true to their word and then Rettler took it to the next level and kept going – daily for 27 years.
Over that time, he has endured challenges such as kidney stones, a lightning storm and below freezing temperatures during Wisconsin winters.
“If there was a year my streak might come to an end, I thought 2020 would be it,” he said.
While Rettler avoided contracting COVID he was tormented by a couple injuries. “It was a hard year because this summer I tore a hamstring while water skiing,” he said. “It was sore but I kept running and when I started feeling better it popped again.”
A regime of ice and heat, wrapping and moderate running and Rettler, at 56, bounced back.
“I’m really very blessed,” he said.
On Friday morning about 30 people gathered at the Annex in Kewaskum to take part in Rettler’s annual run. Rev. Pat Heppe blessed the event
“I look at the world and God looked at all of us and said ‘there’s great potential here’ so He sent His son Jesus and told us how to activate that potential. This is part of that too, actuating the potential we have as human beings to make the world a better place and to go above any type of tragedy.
Paul to the Philippians said, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” and Hebrews talks about “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. The beauty of this is God has a race marked out for all of us.”
Gordon Haberman, one of the founders of the Wisconsin 9-11 Memorial, said a couple words.
“I did a rough calculation and today would be the 9,855th day that Pete has put on his running shoes and braved the elements to keep his streak going,” said Haberman. “That’s amazing. This marks the second anniversary Pete has designated the Wisconsin 9-11 Memorial as the recipient of donations from his run.”
Haberman said it is expected construction of the Wisconsin 9-11 Memorial will be completed in mid-2021.
Record-breaking year for Enchantment in the Park By Lori Yahr
Thank you West Bend for another great Enchantment in the Park season.
There were over 45,000 people who visited beautiful Regner Park, 18,750 pounds of delicious food was collected and given to Washington County pantries, and $45,355 was given back to local nonprofits who help setup, takedown and operate Enchantment in the Park, 2020.
A big shout out to our generous sponsors; West Bend Mutual, Seek Careers and Staffing, Schmitz Ready Mix, Westbury Charitable Foundation, Lynch Buick GMC, Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds, Strachota Family, Delta Defense, Midstate Insurance, Weasler Engineering, Jeff and Chris Potts, Kohler Credit Union, West Bend Friends of Parks and Recreation, Washington County Insider, Kilian Management Services, Pet Supply Plus, Paul and Karen Rice, Baird, the Chlupp and Hall Group, The Chris Chlupp Family, Moraine Park Technical College, Morries Honda, Johnson Family Foundation, Dave Baldus Family, and A & W Iron and Metal.
Thank you to all of our energetic group volunteers who helped setup, takedown and volunteer at Enchantment, Immanuel Church, WB Boys Basketball, Casa Guadalupe, WB Snowboard Team, WB Winter Guard, Slinger Kiwanis, Jackson JHawks Baseball, West Bend Rotary, WB East Dance, WB Sunrise Rotary, Slinger Allenton Rotary, Slinger SkillsUSA, WB Early Risers Kiwanis, Kohler Credit Union, St. Peter’s Youth, Menomonee Falls Rotary, Kewaskum Girls Basketball, West Bend Lightning Softball, WB Dance, WB Swim Club, Joel Schneider and team, Peter German Family, Jon Corbett Family, Dylan Moore, Paul Hayden Family, Moraine Park Electrical Department, Jon Schlindwein, Gary Wachs, and Jessica Schmitz and Kat Trago team.
Big shout out to our marketing teams, Epic Creative and Washington County Insider and a special thank you to the West Bend Police Department for keeping the traffic flowing and the West Bend Parks for keeping the paths clean.
Happy New Year to all. See you again in 2021! The Enchantment in the Park Team
Man rescued after breaking through ice on Pike Lake
A 65-year-old man was rescued after falling through the ice on Pike Lake in Hartford on Wednesday afternoon, December 30.
According to Hartford Fire Chief Paul Stephans the call came in at 1 p.m. about a man through the ice about 400 feet from the beach area at the State Park. People hiking on the trail called 9-1-1 after hearing calls for help.
The Washington County Dive Team was activated along with Flight for Life via protocol.
“The man fell through the ice but he did not go below the surface so we were able to rescue him with our ice rescue suits and bring him ashore,” said Stephans. Hartford Fire and Rescue transported the man to Advocate Aurora / Hartford Hospital.
“He was alert and conscious and suffering from hypothermia after being in the water for 40 minutes,” Stephans said. One member of the Hartford Fire Department did suffer a shoulder injury and he is being treated at Advocate Aurora. There is no prognosis update on the firefighter.
“The ice is not safe yet,” said Stephans. “I know it is a great feeling for the ice fishermen to get out on the first ice but it is way, way too dangerous with the weather we’ve had through December and today was proof of the instability of the ice.”
Sharon Ruplinger retires after 47 ½ years with McDonald’s
After 47 1/2 years with one employer Sharon Ruplinger is ready to retire from McDonald’s and Kilian Management Services.
Ruplinger, a McDonald’s veteran, started in 1973 when she was a 15-year-old sophomore at West Bend East High School.
“I was there when the special sauce for the Big Mac was mixed at the store and when the Hamburgler crawl thing, bouncy fry girls and metal slides were in the outdoor play land,” Ruplinger said. “We had to shut down the play area when it was really hot because kids would burn their legs on that metal slide.”
As a teen Ruplinger had to know all the prices and the tax table, add by hand on a piece of paper, and cook by sight – not by computer.
Ruplinger started working behind the counter at McDonald’s when the store was located at 915 S. Main Street; currently home to AutoZone. That store had a one-window drive thru and the popular sandwich was the McLean Deluxe. She was there in 1988 when the uniforms were baby blue with polyester pants and a blue striped button-up top.
Ruplinger advanced within the ranks and worked as Steve Kilian’s assistant and local marketing manager. She was there when the McDonald’s offices were in the basement of the Kilian home to when it was in the Frisby House on the hill at S. Main and Poplar Street and now on
Ruplinger has worked for Steve Kilian and Steve Jr. ever since Jr. was 7 years old.
“She said my brother and I were running around as kids and my dad and mom were there so we kind of grew up with Sharon in our house every day,” said Kilian Jr. “It was very unique but amazing how it worked out.”
“She is the hardest working, most loyal person you could ever meet,” said Steve Kilian Jr. “She cares about everybody here and wants to see everybody succeed and that’s just a great quality and she cares so much and wants to do the best and she’s come to work every day doing that which has been outstanding and we’re just thankful she’s stayed with us for so many years.”
Kilian said the secret to Sharon’s success came from hard work.
“She earned the respect of her peers, both the people who work for her and the people she worked for,” he said. “She never would ask someone to do something she wouldn’t do herself and she was honest. That’s how people earn respect.”
Kilian Jr. said it was 2019 when Ruplinger gave her 1-year notice. “It was a very emotional moment,” he said. “She said she is always a phone call away and it was really important for her to have a replacement in place so nothing would fall through the cracks. She wanted to leave knowing everyone would be set up for success once she was gone and that’s a real special thing.”
Jane Sterr is one of the Day Ladies at McDonald’s who has also had a long career at the Golden Arches. She worked alongside Ruplinger. “That was when we had an outdoor play area where someone stole the full-size Ronald McDonald.”
“Sharon took care of a lot of parties and she kept the dining area clean,” said Sterr. “Sharon is awesome; she would do anything for you,” said McDonald’s Day Lady Karen Wentz. “Whenever we had any celebration she was always there. Everybody loved her.”
Deb Swenson started with Kilian Management in 1999 and has worked with Sharon “forever.”
“Everybody loves her and she’s been crying for a couple days already because the feedback on the emails has been just tremendous,” she said. “Sharon will be sorely missed. She is very accommodating; she is the face of McDonald’s. She was instrumental in planning the Threshold Shamrock Shake Day and the teacher appreciation nights. We did a fund raiser for Ronald McDonald House and Cars for a Cause. The Kilian’s are so generous and always giving back to the community.”
“I’m really sad. This is very sad,” said Steve Kilian Sr. “She was going to retire in August and then her husband was going to retire at the same time and she said she could then stay until the end of the year when he is retiring.”
Kilian said he had a million Sharon stories. “When I came to West Bend in 1990 and she was working for the previous owner she was pretty emotional about the changes we made and she cried then and now that she’s leaving, she’s crying again,” he said.
“I spotted her and thought she was capable of a lot of things. She did some bookwork for me and she became close to my family because she came to work at my house every day,” said Kilian. “She would sometimes babysit or throw birthday parties; she did what we needed her to do.”
Kilian said Ruplinger evolved from being a helper to being a consultant. “I would ask her opinion on so many things,” he said. “Her confidence grew and she was a big voice in our company. She got to the point where she did my thinking for me, she got to know me so well.”
Kilian credited Ruplinger with having great instincts. “She became the marketing person. She had no formal training but we learned the business together,” he said.
While Ruplinger’s career spanned nearly 48 years, the last 31 years were with Kilian Management.
“I am going to miss her tremendously,” said Kilian. “She’s become, not only a member of my company but of my family and she had a tremendous effect on my business and my family and I sincerely thank her for that.”
“I could not be more proud of the dedication and work ethic of 47 years at the same employer. This is the last of a generation of worker devoted to their employer for life. Also, having grown up on McDonalds cheeseburgers since they were a quarter, I hope my kids will realize that fast food can provide a lifetime of support to a family. Sharon has her home family and her McDonald’s family, and only the time of day determined which she worked harder for.” – Scott Ruplinger (Son)
“My mom has been proud to be part of McDonald’s for her entire career. I am grateful that I witnessed her strong work ethic and loyalty. Her example made us better.” – Kim Raschick (Daughter)
“We grew up with McDonald’s. From Mom bringing home the newest happy meal toy to breaking in the new play-places. Every birthday party we had was with our McDonald’s family at the restaurants. Looking back, I can’t think of a time when I heard my Mom complain about work. She loves her job and her co-workers. Her work ethic lessons have been taught to us and we will pass down to our kids.” – Kelly Bubolz (Daughter)
Ruplinger sent a note December 10, 2020
This email is to inform the business associates (which I will call my Friends) that I have worked with over the many years. I will be retiring at the end of the year from McDonald’s/Kilian Management Services.
My one and only job started on April 30, 1974. I have worked for McDonald’s for 47 ½ years with over 30 years with the Kilian’s. I’ve attached our Christmas card from this year with my 9 reasons to retire.
COVID has been rough with not seeing our Grandkids. Hoping after COVID I’ll be the Grandma I want to be. You hear when people retire how they will miss the people they’ve worked with. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart working for the Kilian’s is and was like working with my Family. Steve Jr was 7 yrs old when I started working for them in their office in their house. I’m so proud to say I was here to watch Steve Jr grow up and become a successful 2nd generation Operator.
My Assistant for many years Deb Swenson will be taking over my job and is your contact for Kilian’s schedules and anything else you will need.
Thank you for all the years of help and patience.