The new grocery store in downtown Fort Scott is progressing.
“Lots of things have fallen into place really well and a few things have been a struggle due to long lead times due to COVID-related manufacturing delays,” said Bill Michaud, of BAJA Investment, the owner. “The most significant delays have been the mechanical components for the refrigerators and freezers. The final pieces of the equipment order won’t be arriving until January 4th.”
This sets the opening back a little.
“Before this delay, we had anticipated opening Dec 29th but because of this delay we now expect to open either January 8 or 11,” Michaud said. “The final decision on the actual opening date will be made as we get closer.”
Store hours will be 8 am – 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 am – 6 pm on Sunday.
“We will offer online ordering,” he said. ” Our website is still under development, but we will be activating our Facebook page in the next day or two.”
The store has a name and it was inspired by a downtown mural.
“The store name will be the Star Emporium Downtown General Store,” Michaud said.
This name was inspired by a mural on Skubitz Plaza on the north side of a building facing the Fort Scott National Historic Site.
“While we know that the original Star Emporium was a clothing store, the mural boasts that the Star Emporium was ‘the most unique shop in the land of oz’,” Michaud said. “We believe this store will be unique and serve a broad base of community needs.”
Products at the store will evolve, he said. Currently, they range from budget-conscious to specialty label food items.
“We will offer a very broad range of products ranging from budget-focused brands all the way to very high-quality specialty and private label products that people can’t get anywhere other than our store,” Michaud said. ” We understand people need to stretch their food dollar in these tough times so we are going to be very value-conscious in our pricing. We recognize that our product offering is going to evolve to suit the needs of our customers.”
Local producers and suppliers will feed into the store.
“In addition to recognized branded products we are also working with a variety of small local producers and suppliers including Bourbon County beef from Bronson Locker, several local produce growers, Good Natured Family Farms. We hope to continue to develop additional partnerships as we go along and continually adapt to the needs of our customer base.”
“In addition to our produce co-op and grocery options the store will also feature a large salad bar and deli which will also utilize as many fresh local ingredients as are available,” he said. ” The deli menu will be seasonal and offer 5 – 6 rotational feature sandwiches, wraps, and specialty items.”
Food insecurity is addressed in the venture.
“While the grocery store and deli will provide sustainability for our operation, one of the driving factors behind the community need for the store was the food insecurity and need for community-based food distribution programs,” Michaud said. ” We have reached an agreement with the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas to provide food storage space to expand the food distribution and delivery programs they currently offer in Crawford County into Fort Scott. These services will also begin in January.”
BAJA Investments was granted SPARK funds for $450.000 for the project. SPARK grants were a part of the monies given Kansas from the federal government to help with the on-going effects of COVID-19.
The second floor of the building houses the offices of B-WERC.
B-WERC is a multi-partner collaboration of the Bourbon County Commission, the Kansas Small Business Development Center, Southeast KANSASWORKS, Fort Scott Community College, the Healthy Bourbon County Action Team, the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce, and BAJA Investments. The center focuses on growing and sustaining businesses, connecting jobs, and serving people.
The B-WERC program is funded through the Federal Cares Act Relief, dispersed to the county from the state in SPARK Phase 1, to address current and immediate COVID related needs. These include assisting businesses, encouraging economic activity, and addressing unemployment, according to Jody Hoener, spokesperson for the program in Bourbon County.