Dale Franz, co-owner, said Saturday he plans to move the business into a fully remodeled location with new efficient equipment, an expansion of its popular meat market and a significantly larger selection of fresh produce and other requested products.
“We just started feeling like through all the support that everybody had given to us through all of this, so we were just listening and taking notes what people were wanting,” he said.
“The town deserves more. We really couldn’t give them everything from here. So we started talking a little more and getting a little more serious about it.”
The relocation of Dale’s Supermarket is a another step in the evolution of grocery options in Hillsboro that began when the Vogt family built a new store in Hillsboro Heights in 2003.
In 2014, the Vogt family sold the business to Heartland Foods, who continued the operation until closing the business in late December that same year.
In April 2015, Wal-Mart opened a new store in Hillsboro Heights, but closed it in January 2016 because of a corporate policy change.
Dollar General eventually acquired the building and remodeled it to offer expanded grocery options later that year.
“Years and years ago, I told the boys that if Wal-Mart ever came to town—and I said they won’t, but if they ever do—we’re not going to fight, we’re just going to close and walk away,” Franz said.
“But through Wal-Mart coming in, we were blessed tremendously by the community in the overwhelming support we received.”
Through those years, the Franz family weighed their options for future.
“We were back and forth—what can we do (at the current location), do we go more to Internet shipping of sausage and mainly push on that and switch our whole aspect?” he said.
“We kept looking at what it would take to fix up this building —flooring, remodeling,” he said. “We were maxed out on electricity so we’d have to bring in new electrical service.
“And it didn’t matter what we’d spend, we’re landlocked,” Franz added. “We would never have enough (space) to satisfy what the people were wanting, and we would never have enough parking.”
Offer to lease
Franz said he received a phone call from Paul Barnes not long after the city council declined a request from Grace Community Fellowship to acquire the Heartland building for a new church facility. The council hoped to see the building remain a retail location.
“Paul Barnes gave me a call and he said the building is sitting empty, do you want to talk sometime,” Franz said. “So we talked, we had some plans drawn up. They had sold everything off (after closing the store), so it’s gutted. Basically, the back wall is there, plus the offices and the restrooms. That’s it.”
The Franz family negotiated a three-year lease with the Heartland Foods corporation, and the Franz family officially took possession of the property Friday.
The business plan is to use the three years to create a business track record for the possibility of getting a loan to exercise the purchase option.
“We’ll get one loan at a time, and when it comes time we can go to the banks and say what we’re doing—here’s what we’re paying in lease payments, and a mortgage would be cheaper than that,” he said.
The layout of the new Dale’s Supermarket will resemble the Vogts floor plan and look when it reopens, according to Franz, but with improvements.
“We’re going to put down new flooring and we’ll remodel because we have to take out some of the back wall to make the meat department ready for full service,” he said. “Some things will look very similar to the way Vogts had it, just the way its set up.
“Where we put freezers down, (the facility) has the barrier in the floor for those freezers,” Franz added. “Those things will be going in exactly like they were. The dairy and milk coolers will be the same, the produce will be in the same area.”
The new store will offer, among other things, pre-packed meat as well as the fresh-meat counter, and the new store will include a floral department.
“You look at the town, it can’t support a flower shop on its own,” Franz said. “But maybe incorporated with this to where we have the foot traffic, it’s a possibility.”
Franz said the new location won’t offer a sit-down eating area like the previous owners had tried, but they are considering a produce “island” where customers can create their own salad to take home.
Franz said he knows a big move increases his risk.
“We’re hoping it all works out,” he said. “If I really wanted to be safe, I’d stay (at the current location), fix this up a little bit, do it for another 5-10 years and retire,” he said.
“I’m sure I would make more money staying here because the pro forma going in out (to Hillsboro Heights) with all the added expenses, it’s not as profitable.
“But if we can present something (enticing), have a wider selection of options and not be gouging people with prices, I think we can keep a few more people in town and even pull a few more from elsewhere.”
Franz said when the new store is ready to open, he is definitely planning a grand opening.
“We’ll have representatives there (though the warehouse supplier), and we’ll probably have samples,” he said. “We’ve even kicked around doing sausage sliders.”
As for the building the family own at the corner of Main Steet and Grand Avenue, Franz said he plans to keep it for the time being and rent the space for other business opportunities.
“We’ve had a few inquiries, asking about the east end,” he said. “And we have somebody else who may be interested in the middle section.
“We plan on keeping the building for now—if I can get enough rent out of it to pay the taxes.”