Tractor Supply Co. coming to former Shopko buildings in Kewaunee, Oconto
KEWAUNEE – Those forlorn, large and empty Shopko Hometown buildings sitting vacant for nearly two years in Kewaunee and Oconto will be filled by a national home improvement and rural lifestyle retailer.
Tractor Supply Co. plans to open stores in the former Shopkos this summer in Kewaunee and this fall in Oconto, a spokesperson for the company confirmed in an email. The idea for the new stores was brought to officials in Kewaunee early this year and in Oconto about six weeks ago, but plans were formalized in Kewaunee a couple of weeks ago and in Oconto last week, those officials said.
The company calls itself "… an essential, needs-based retailer, providing everyday products for customers" who prefer the do-it-yourself method. Those products don't actually include full-size farm tractors but do include lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment, lawn and garden care supplies, outdoor living goods including grills, tools and hardware, pet and farm animal food and supplies, farming needs, home products, clothing and shoes and more.
"I think it makes sense for them in the rural area that we are," Kewaunee Mayor Jason Jelinek said. "There's a lot of buzz, a lot of people want to see this come here. They'd love to see a store that has more options for tools and clothing and other items."
Based in Nashville, Tractor Supply employed more than 42,000 people at 1,923 stores in 49 states as of Dec. 26 with 25 stores in Wisconsin, according to the company. The Kewaunee and Oconto stores each will employ about 15 people, at least half of them as full-timers.
It's not yet known how big these stores will be. A typical Tractor Supply store runs about 15,000 square feet, and the two Shopko Hometown structures are each a little over 35,000 feet.
But Kewaunee building inspector and zoning administrator Robbie Davister said he believes the Kewaunee store will be one of the company's biggest, and it's planning an outdoor display area of 14,731 square feet.
Opening dates are not yet set; they'll be based on the timeline to remodel the old Shopkos, stock the new stores and hire and train staff. Jelinek said the Kewaunee building is in "pretty good shape," and he believes the store could be open in late June or early July. Oconto Administrator Sara Perizzo said the Oconto store might open in mid to late summer.
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Jelinek and Perizzo said the benefits of Tractor Supply coming to these cities are not only that they're going to fill large buildings that have sat vacant since Shopko closed in May 2019 (Kewaunee) and June 2019 (Oconto) and might have been difficult to fill because their size, location and zoning would require some sort of business or industrial use. It also will generate more tax revenues for the cities than those properties currently do, and Perizzo noted it will help avoid what's called the "dark store loophole" that allows big-box retailers in Wisconsin to claim lower tax bills based on comparison to assessed values of vacant, similarly-sized properties.
"For the community, it's a good asset," Perrizo said. "It's always good to fill an empty building. This is definitely going to fill the hole we had when Shopko left. It certainly will prevent the dark-store loophole from being a concern of ours … We're excited to have a new retail operation fill an empty space."
"Just the idea that someone's going to be in that store," Jelinek said. "We've watched large buildings sit and decay. We'll be glad to avoid that road."
They said another benefit is that residents won't necessarily need to go out of town to shop for the range of products the stores offer. Oconto has two local hardware stores, but the nearest ones offering a home improvement or rural lifestyle range similar to Tractor Supply are in Marinette, site of another Tractor Supply and a Menard's, or Green Bay.
"It'll be good to have people shop local," Perizzo said.
Kewaunee doesn't have a hardware store, so the current options are to visit Rio Creek Country Store in Algoma, a True Value store that carries farm supplies as well; smaller hardware stores in Algoma or Luxemburg; or make the half-hour trip to Green Bay, Manitowoc or Sturgeon Bay, which has a Tractor Supply store that the company also opened in a former retail building, a Kmart that closed in 1995 and sat dormant and in disrepair for 21 years until Tractor Supply moved in in 2016.
Jelinek said the arrival of a store like Tractor Supply also shows that Kewaunee is making headway in its efforts to revitalize the city's attractiveness to businesses, shoppers and people who live there or might consider moving there.
"I think people knowing they have options in Kewaunee is a good thing," Jelinek said. "We can talk about how beautiful Kewaunee is, what a great place to live it is, but really, having those conveniences for everyday life is just as important.
"I think (Tractor Supply coming to Kewaunee) is a great indicator that it's a good match for the community. It's not just to attract folks in the city but also from outside the community. Having a big-box store is a good sign that Kewaunee is growing … I always go back to the old phrase, more is more and less is less."
For more on Tractor Supply Co., visit tractorsupply.com.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Tractor Supply Co. coming to former Shopko buildings in Kewaunee, Oconto