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Columbus Commerce Center looking to tap into growth

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Mike Herl’s plans for the Columbus Commerce Center are ambitious enough, but he wants you to know that he’s not trying to compete with the Prairie Lakes Shopping Center, his neighbor to the south along Hwy. 151.

Prairie Lakes hooked a big fish late in October when Cabela’s announced a tentative plan to open a new retail store there — potentially bringing 200 new jobs to town by 2015.

Meanwhile, the Columbus Commerce Center recently announced it will soon add a new Sentry grocery store and an Ace Hardware store to its shopping complex, which is currently anchored by a Shopko Hometown Store.

Those are two big announcements that will greatly enhance their respective communities — but for different reasons.

“You couldn’t move fast enough from ’04 to ’07,” said Herl. “Back then, all I had to do was show a layout like this and I would have had 10 buyers lined up. But now it’s not like that.” — Mike Herl, lead broker, Columbus Commerce Center

“Let’s put it this way. I’ve been working on this project for a little more than five years, and the number one thing that I have been hammered on by the residents of Columbus is they want a new, real grocery store,” said Herl, a partner-vice president of Brokerage Services for Colliers International and the lead broker for the Columbus Commerce Center, which is owned by local businessman Michael Eisenga. “And so when we have our open meetings with the city and things of that nature, just simply going around talking to businesses, it was always grocery, grocery, grocery. They wanted a new grocery store.”

Done and done.

To Herl, the new grocery and hardware stores will be a cornerstone of the shopping center’s central mission — providing Columbus residents with the staples of life.

“One of the things we clearly showed on our leakage study that we put together was that for the most part, people were going to Beaver Dam and to Sun Prairie in order to do their major shopping on the weekends, and basically using the Pick ’n Save as more of a convenience type of thing,” said Herl. “Now, I understand the Pick ’n Save numbers are very, very good there, but for the most part, a good portion of the population was going elsewhere.”

But while modern hunter-gatherers generally show a willingness to roam far afield for many of their essentials, according to Herl, his numbers show that people are eager to stay closer to home.

“There’s a phenomenal amount of grocery in [the Sun Prairie] area,” said Herl. “But what you’re looking at now, with the new Cabela’s going in down there, to me it’s going to be a big development down there, it’s going to draw a lot of people. But what we’re trying to put together in the Columbus area is a newer, fresher business park that caters directly to the needs of what the people of the Columbus area, the Fall River area, need. Cabela’s is a big, touristy type thing, too. It draws a lot of people. So if people want to go down there and make a day of it, that’s great. But as far as people getting the staples of everyday life together, the Columbus Commerce Center will be there for them.”


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