April 4, 2018 – West Bend, WI – If you leave Fleet Farm in West Bend these days most neighbors will say “an employee told them that a new Fleet Farm will be built soon.”
There’s also word from the same unnamed employee that “ground will be broken soon on a new Fleet Farm in West Bend.”
The long-rumor activity of a new Fleet Farm in West Bend dates to 2004 when Fleet Farm announced it 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.
In January 2016, the Mills family sold its business to New York-based investment firm KKR.
In the first quarter of the year, KKR met with store managers. This is the message passed along, “We anticipate investing significantly in the business adding infrastructure, stores and local jobs,” said Nate Taylor, then with the retail portion of KKR.
Over the next 13 years, nothing was built. But now the rumor mill is churning fast…. and there maybe some news waiting in the wings.
Some businesses along Highway 33 west have claimed there’s been activity on some of the land owned by Fleet Farm. A call to Elaine Johnson at the DNR confirmed that ‘yes’ there was some soil sampling about a month ago, but that was for the incoming Morrie’s Honda dealership and that property is adjacent to the 40 acres Fleet owns.
Johnson’s note is below. She answered whether someone from Fleet or KKR is sniffing around to finally build.
As requested, I checked our records for waterways and wetlands projects located in Section 16, Township 11N, Range 19E in the City of West Bend, Washington County.
Apart from the recent 2018 wetland fill application and wetland delineation for the proposed Honda dealership, our most recent record after that starts in 2012. In other words, apart from the Honda dealership, the Waterways and Wetlands Program hasn’t reviewed any projects in this area for the last 5-6 years or so. That said, we do not have any applications in for a proposed Fleet Farm or Olive Garden (or other development).
Water Management Specialist (Kenosha, Washington and Walworth counties)
Division of External Services
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
However, checking a bit closer to home City Administrator Jay Shambeau confirmed the new owners of Fleet Farm have reached out. “Yes, the city has been having conversations with the new ownership of Fleet Farm,” said Shambeau following Monday night’s council meeting.
“We’ve been staying in contact with them, although they’re not moving forward with any type of design or development proposal at this time.”
A conversation Tuesday with officials at the corporate office of Fleet Farm were friendly and brief and noncommittal regarding any sort of development in West Bend.
On a final note, a spokesperson from Fleet Farm Corporate promised if Fleet Farm decides to build a new store in West Bend they will make the announcement first on WashingtonCountyInsider.com