‘It’s a major win for our community’

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hy-Vee employees excited for new grocery store

AUSTIN — Hy-Vee manager Todd Hepler heard two words the most Monday morning after breaking the news to his employees that they were getting a new store: “hallelujah” and “finally.”

After the Austin Port Authority approved the deal for Hy-Vee to acquire the main portion of the Oak Park Mall property to build a new 60,000 to 90,000 square foot store.

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“I think it’s a major win for our community,” Hepler said.

The company shares that excitement, as the deal returns the grocery store chain to the mall, it’s original home in Austin years ago.

“We’re excited to build a new Hy-Vee store there in Austin,” Hy-Vee Inc. spokeswoman Tara Deering-Hansen said.

Now, Hepler and Hy-Vee are looking ahead to starting work on their new store this winter, should all the all the necessary paperwork be finalized and signed so the deal can be finalized the week of Nov. 9-13.

Though details are still being finalized, Hepler is still looking forward to a few of the expected amenities for the new store.

“You’re doing to see a lot of different new things that you don’t typically see in a grocery store,” Hepler said.

Hepler said the store could resemble Hy-Vee’s newest stores in Rochester and the Twin Cities. For starters, Hepler is excited about a large Market Fresh Grille, which will be a large food court area in aisle one of the store.

“This will be the most up to date grocery store that we have in southern Minnesota,” Hepler said.

Hepler noted the new store would likely include a large health foods and frozen foods sections, and the new store could increase the bulk items from about 30 options to 160 or even 200 bins for items like nuts, granola and dried fruits that are bought in bulk, commonly in small plastic bags.

Hepler estimated the new store will is also increase staffing levels from about 365 to about 575 to 600.

Several new departments could also be added at the new store. Hepler said Hy-Vee will likely increase its online buying department. About four weeks ago, Hy-Vee added online buying, and Hepler said it’s been very popular to date.

“It absolutely has been a huge success,” he said.

He expects that will only increase at the new store, and he expects other departments like the bakery department and others will grow at the new store.

Overall, Hepler said this will be a good thing for Austin.

“This is really going help the community and change the outlook of retail in the community,” Hepler said.

Despite months of uncertainty with the mall deal, Hepler said he never gave up hope on the project, noting that the project was a long time coming.

“This is something that it just needed to happen,” he said.

Hepler thanked the city, port authority, Director of Administrative Services Tom Dankert and everyone who participated in the project for their work in getting the deal done.

“Hy-Vee really thanks them for all that they’ve done not just for Hy-Vee but for the entire community,” he said.