Neighbors in West Bend are taking a wait-and-see attitude as word spreads that Mill Fleet Farm has been sold. An article in the Star Tribune said the Mills family sold to New York-based investment firm KKR.
Terms of the deal weren’t announced but include the “privately held chain of 35 stores” that went up for sale last fall. There’s a Fleet Farm in West Bend and several others in neighboring communities including Menomonee Falls and Fond du Lac.
In West Bend there had been promises since 2004 that Fleet Farm was going to build ‘the largest store in the state’ on a 30-acre parcel along Highway 33 and County Highway Z.
The Mills brothers also acquired 40 adjacent acres and plans were on track for a 274,000-square-foot store.
When the announcement was made in fall that the Mills family was looking for a buyer, West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said, “Fleet Farm has been an asset to West Bend for as long as most of us can remember but their announcement may explain why they’ve been slow to expand in West Bend and elsewhere.”
Sadownikow praised the Mills family as “they’re recognizing to grow properly they need more cash to do so and hopefully whoever purchases them will recognize the excitement in this community if they chose to expand here.”
Last summer, after 11 years of a stalled project City Administrator T.J. Justice and Mayor Kraig Sadownikow reached out to the Mills brothers. One of the owners and two corporate officials visited the site and the spark on development was relit.
Although the anticipation grew in the community, city leaders said talks with the Mills brothers again cooled off.
As far as the current Fleet Farm on 18th Avenue and Highway 33, Sadownikow and others in real estate qualify the store as a “cash cow” and “an asset to their portfolio.”
As far as the new owners are concerned the new owners released a statement with KKR executive Nate Taylor saying “KKR plans to invest in a Mills Fleet Farm expansion that could transcend its four-state Upper Midwest region.”
“We anticipate investing significantly in the business, adding infrastructure, stores and local jobs,” Taylor said in a statement. He added that KKR would “remain committed to Mills Fleet Farm’s founding values — and those shared by KKR — of honesty, integrity, hard work, service and loyalty to our customers and partners.”