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JANESVILLE—The shiny metal sign that once read “Shopko” on the front of the defunct retailer’s former Janesville store along Humes Road has been gone since 2019, shortly after the retail chain went bankrupt.

Since then, the building has remained vacant, and the rusty residue the sign left behind has started to run down the structure’s tan façade, leaving behind a ghostly epitaph.

The long-term vacancy and early signs of blight that mark the 100,000-square-foot building could be gone soon.

City of Janesville officials say they’re in discussions with Des Moines, Iowa-based supermarket chain Hy-Vee about a plan to buy and renovate the former Shopko and convert it into a full-service grocery and liquor store.

Under preliminary plans Hy-Vee wants to begin revamping the former Shopko as early as January with plans to open a new supermarket in fall 2022, Hy-Vee spokeswoman Tina Potthoff said.

City of Janesville Economic Development Director Gale Price said Hy-Vee has preliminary plans for a hybrid grocery store-restaurant, putting the full-service grocery and liquor stores under the same roof as a Wahlburgers bar and grill and a new Starbucks location.

Some Hy-Vee locations in Wisconsin already have leveraged the grocery store-restaurant model, including two of the chain’s stores in Madison and Fitchburg.

Price said Hy-Vee’s Wahlburgers franchises tend to require a bar in larger-format store models.

Since early 2020, Hy-Vee has been converting its own in-store dining areas to include Wahlburgers restaurants, an East Coast chain that serves burgers and American-style comfort foods and offers beer, wine and mixed drinks at a full-service bar.

Such a development would compete with existing supermarkets in the area—Woodman’s, Festival Foods—and restaurants—Red Robin and Hacienda Real, to name two—along the same spur.

The concept would also present challenges for Janesville’s city planners, liquor licensing committee, plan commission and, ultimately, city council to wrestle with.

“Hy-Vee would need us to change our city liquor ordinance to allow intoxicating liquor sales in a bar and restaurant that’s inside the grocery,” Price said.

Hy-Vee has been buying up former Shopko locations in small markets in Iowa since 2020, according to company information.

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