It appears Festival Foods plans to keep growing its presence in the Milwaukee market, with the recent purchase of a shopping center in Hartford.
The De Pere-based grocery store operator says while not all details are final, it hopes to open a new location there in 2022.
An affiliate of Festival Foods acquired the Hartford Plaza, located at 1201-1275 Bell Ave., for $1.85 million, according to state records. The three parcels it acquired altogether have an assessed value of roughly $3 million, according to city records.
The roughly 17-acre site was acquired from The Equitable Bank, of Wauwatosa. The buyer, MKB Hartford LLC, lists Festival Foods' Onalaska support office as its address and general counsel Brian Bauman as its registered agent.
Brian Stenzel, senior director of community involvement with Festival Foods, confirmed the company's intentions to open a grocery store at the shopping center.
"We intend to bring a Festival Foods to the Hartford community," he said.
The shopping center formerly housed a Kmart store and Sentry Foods grocery store. The Kmart closed roughly 4.5 years ago, while the Sentry Foods has sat vacant several years longer than that, said Steve Volkert, Hartford city administrator. He said the shopping center has five smaller retail spaces, three of which are still occupied. Tenants include a financial services firm, a salon and an auto parts store, he said.
Stenzel said Festival Foods has still not determined the exact square footage of the store, and whether it will combine all or parts of the Sentry Foods and Kmart spaces. He added that Festival Foods also has not determined what will become of the smaller retail spaces and the existing tenants.
He said Festival Foods stores are typically between 50,000 and 70,000 square feet.
Volkert said the city was approached a couple months ago by brokers representing Festival Foods, who were inquiring about the shopping center. The company has not submitted any type of application to redevelop or occupy the site, he said.
Hartford is the newest addition in a growing list of communities eyed by Festival Foods. The grocery chain is working to redevelop the former Pick 'n Save building in West Allis for a new location. It purchased a former Target Store in Greenfield in January, and it opened a new Hales Corners location in November 2019. Stenzel said Festival Foods is aiming to open a store in Greenfield by the middle of next year.
Stenzel said Festival Foods does not have a set number of stores it wishes to open in the metro area, though it generally seeks to open two store locations a year. It owns 33 stores across the state.
"A lot of it depends on the opportunities that arise," Stenzel said of Festival Foods' strategy in adding locations. He added the company has "looked into opportunities" in Menomonee Falls, though there are no set plans to open a store there yet.
Volkert said the shopping center acquisition adds to the investment and development interest in Hartford. He pointed out the city's growing downtown has a new chophouse restaurant, and is also the location of a nearly finished apartment complex.
"On behalf of the city, we're very excited of the fact more and more people are showing interest in investing in Hartford," Volkert said. "This is another sign that there is a lot of interest in Hartford."