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Hy-Vee set to open in former Oak Park location

By Deb Nicklay, Austin Daily Herald

AUSTIN — Here is the thing about Austin’s new Hy-Vee store: You will have a tough time deciding which area impresses you most.

How about the Hibachi Asian Grill that allows you to choose your own ingredients — and watch it being made, ala HuHot? Or the Long Island Deli, with its New York-style sandwiches (like “The Bronx Bomb”) — or the made-to-order Cocina Mexicana, with its fresh food offerings?

Oh, there is more yet — lots more. And the public will get a chance to see it all — all 82,000 square feet — when the new store opens at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The old store, located just east of Shopko on 18th Avenue Northwest, will close today in preparation for the move. The new Hy-Vee is located at 1307 18th Ave. NW, encompassing much of what used to be Oak Park Mall.

Officials on Thursday said Hy-Vee invested nearly $20 million in the community to build, furnish and stock the grocery store. The new store adds about 300 new jobs to bring the number of employees to 626, including 141 full-time positions.

The store will stay open 24 hours, seven days a week and will carry about 54,000 items. An Austin Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday for the formal opening.

Upon entering the store, customers will see a streetscape of varied fresh food options, each with its own cuisine and facade. The Market Grille restaurant and bar offers largely American fare; Dia Pida Italian Street Food has a line of flatbreads, pasta and other Italian items. Hickory House Comfort Foods provides a more traditional menu, from barbecue and meat loaf, to macaroni and cheese.

Other areas include a Juice & Smoothies island; a bakery with artisan and pan breads, pastries, cakes, bagels and daily fresh-fried doughnuts; a specialty cheese and olive bar; a salad bar; a full meat counter with smoked meats, in-store chefs and a cooking demonstration station. A full wine and spirits area is located on the west side of the store.

People can get more of a dining experience at the bar of The Market Grille. –
Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Add to that a pharmacy with a drive-up window; an in-store dietitian and wellness department; a large HealthMarket and bulk foods section with fresh produce items, including homegrown and organic; specialty items; floral design and shop; a mother’s room; dry cleaning and postal services; Aisles Online grocery delivery and pickup service; and a convenience store with a Caribou coffee shop and drive-thru.

Emphasis is focused on “fresh, personalized and customized options” for citizens with a busy lifestyle, who can pick up a full slate of ready-to-bake items or foods they can prepare themselves, said Tara Deering-Hansen, group vice president of communications.

The store is very much like those some would see in the Twin Cities, said CEO Randy Edeker.

“It is not as big as some in the Twin Cities, but it has everything that those have,” he said.

He acknowledged the process of building the store took a bit longer than first anticipated, but “in the end, this was the best path for us and the best for the town,” he said.

Store Director Dan Goshorn said he had “a huge sense of pride” as the store opens, especially when looking at the varied food court areas and food selections.

“I really like the direction the company is taking” with fresh foods, providing healthy choices and still catering to a busy lifestyle, he said.

Goshorn said retail space east of Hy-Vee included in the plan is in the process of being finished, encompassing 9,000 square feet. The area will be leased from Hy-Vee and will soon be done, he said. He has yet to have tenants, since they are not quite ready to occupy.

Mayo’s Express Care is also part of the physical plant and opens next week. It is located to the west of the main store. The clinic will be staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants and will offer treatment for conditions like sore throats, sinus infections, colds and flu, and minor cuts.

Gorshorn said everyone is excited for the opening on Tuesday — adding the first 300 customers will receive free groceries.

He could not anticipate, he said, how many customers he will see on the first day.

“I think anticipation has been growing for some time, so I think we’ll be pretty busy,” he said with a smile. “And I say, the more the better.”

A variety of cheese is displayed, another example of the variety the new store has to offer. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune