A new grocery store in downtown Fort Scott is on the horizon.
This project is a result of the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) program.
The Kansas SPARK Committee approved the final pieces of the Bourbon County Spark Plan on Sept. 25.
This Kress Building repurposing addresses access to food, which was one of the issues identified for the SPARK program.
” BAJA Investments, LLC submitted an application which will result in the rehabilitation of the Kress Building located at 17 S Main Street in downtown Fort Scott, into a grocery store,” Bill Michaud, the developer of the project and owner of BAJA Investments, LLC, said.
Featured at the future store will be locally produced co-op food and salad bar/deli, he said.
Additionally, a new resource center to support the needs of the community through COVID-19 pandemic recovery will be located in the rehabilitated Kress Building.
“Prior to the grocery store opening, a collaboration of local community resource agencies will open the BWERC (pronounced B-WORK) which is an acronym for the Bourbon County Workforce and Entrepreneurship Resouce Center,” said Michaud. “This is an exciting collaboration between Kansas Works, (a division of Network Kansas that supports Workforce Development), the SBDC at Pitt State (Small Business Development Center), Fort Scott Community College, and the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce including the E-Community program — all that together with being coordinated and supported by Bourbon County Economic Development.”
Any inquiries regarding the B-WERC facility services may be directed to Bourbon County Economic Development Director, Jody Hoener at 620.215.5725 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Food Co-op, Deli Meat/Cheese and Salad Bar
“The idea of a downtown grocery store certainly wasn’t an original idea,” Michaud said. “I think there has been discussion of this since the Dollar General moved out of downtown many years ago. I think it’s one of those things that people didn’t realize how convenient it was to have until it was gone.”
“The many issues that have arisen out of the COVID pandemic pushed this need to the forefront and access to healthy food was a stated point of emphasis under the SPARK program,” he said.
“One feature we are planning is the food co-op for locally grown produce and other food products,” he said. “We are going to provide a local outlet for as many ‘produced in Bourbon County’ products as possible.”
“We hope to become a resource to connect local producers with the market of consumers and restaurants who are looking for fresh, locally grown products,” Michaud said.
“Secondly we are offering to partner with CHC/SEK so that they may expand the food delivery service that they offer to the homebound, elderly and other underserved populations in Crawford County, into Fort Scott,” he said. “The new store will provide storage for donated food items for delivery and supplement the needs of the clientele by making additional food items available.”
The pandemic has caused some nationwide unemployment, which leads to increased food insecurities, some driven by lack of transportation, Michaud noted.
“So adding to the food supply downtown and in northwest Fort Scott will help address that need for residents of that part of town,” he said. “In recent years, the increased downtown housing development has further increased the need for a downtown grocery store.”
“That increase in residential housing, the lack of food supply to residents west of 69 highway and the great opportunity for partnerships to support local produce and other small businesses make this an investment in our community and in our downtown … a project I thought was worth pursuing,” Michaud said.