After 88 years in business, the Dillons Grocery Store in St. John closed its doors.
Long term, the initial investment is not the most significant aspect.
Initial 20 year projections.
That’s a $44.3+ million difference without applying an economic multiplier.
After a couple of months of meetings and preliminary research, the St. John City Council appointed six community leaders to steer efforts to help bring a grocery store back to St. John. The Grocery Task Force was made up of Laura Davis, Chad Fisher, Kim Hullman, John Mansel, Josh Meyer, and Tonya Sanders.
Unlike neighboring communities, St. John had been collecting zero local sales tax. Voters approved a 10-year 1% sales tax for economic development purposes and infrastructure projects.
The City of St. John purchased the former Dillons building in an attempt to attract a new grocer and the Grocery Task Force interviewed prospective grocers.
The City and EcoDevo split the cost of a feasibility study by Perkins Marketing to determine if the old Dillons building would be suitable to open a grocery store in or if a new, bigger building would need to be constructed.
With the results of a feasibility study and feedback from established grocer White’s Foodliner, it became clear that the scope of the project required to recruit a grocer was beyond what the Grocery Task Force or the City of St. John could accomplish on its own. It would require constructing a new 15,000 sq. ft. facility along the highway that had compassion business to drive traffic.
The EcoDevo board agreed to accept a donation for a down payment or purchase option on property to be used for a new grocery store in St. John.
EcoDevo received over $130,000 in private and corporate donations as seed money for start-up costs for the grocery store project.
EcoDevo awarded a $15,000 planning grant from Sunflower Foundation for technical assistance preparing legal documents related to the grocery store project.
EcoDevo purchased land at U.S. Highway 281 and 5th Avenue in St. John for the construction of a new grocery store.
A fuel study was conducted by IMST to see if this service would bring more grocery sales to the grocery store. The study found that residents were buying fuel out-of-county 60% of the time. With gas pumps, a new grocery store would see a projected increase of 16% in grocery sales each time a customer bought fuel.
White’s Foodliner signed a letter of intent to operate in the future Stafford County Marketplace for 10 years. Stafford County Drug also signed a letter of intent.
The City of St. John voted to enter into and signed a development agreement with EcoDevo.
EcoDevo was awarded a $780,800 grant for job creation from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop the Stafford County Marketplace.
This was definitely a game-changer in the $3.8 million project. It wasn’t everything, but it was the equity needed to secure a couple of loans. All together, it took a mix of 12 public, private, and nonprofit funding sources.
The existing building on the property at U.S. Highway 281 and 5th Avenue was demolished.
The general contractor J.A. Knight & Sons out of Pratt began construction on the Stafford County Marketplace.
The Grand Opening was held Wednesday, October 10th. The Stafford County Marketplace is home to White’s Foodliner, Stafford County Drug, and Tiger Stop which is a convenience store and fuel pumps. Here are some photos of the event taken by St. John Community Member, Dick Smith.