Grocer announces intent to locate in Iola



May 5, 2015 - 12:00 AM

G&W Foods hopes to have a presence in Iola if Allen County Commissioners give the go-ahead.
Based in Willow Springs, Mo., the grocery store chain has its sights on the land where the old county hospital sits. G&W has 26 stores across Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas, including Yates Center, Chanute and Neodesha.
David Toland, executive director of Thrive Allen County and who serves as a quasi-economic development director for Iola and Allen County, was to meet with county commissioners this morning to discuss G&W’s official letter of intent to build the 15,000-square-foot store in the heart of Iola. G&W focuses on small-scale stores in small communities.
The bigger dream is to have the grocery store be the anchor to a complete redevelopment of where the old hospital sits, including apartment buildings and townhomes.
The only thing that would remain is the Medical Arts Building to the south of the hospital which continues to be used by Allen County Regional Hospital for its Hospice and Home Health programs as well as visiting physicians from metropolitan areas.
The grocery store would be a $3 million investment by G&W. If the entire two acres were developed, Toland said it would mean a $7 million investment in the community.
Besides bringing a second grocery store to town, the development would address the city’s shortage of affordable housing, Toland said. The plan has three two-story apartment complexes with 8 to 10 units apiece. The fourth unit would be slightly smaller townhomes, with eight to 10 units. A decided advantage to the location is existing infrastructure of sewer and utilities, roads and sidewalks.

commissioners is a proposal by Arlyn Briggs, Kincaid, to convert the old hospital into a facility to house and treat those with Alzheimer’s, troubled teens, and as a dialysis center. Commissioners gave Briggs until June 1 to confirm financing and commitments to carry through with his proposal. County officials are asking for $157,000 for the 80,000-square-foot facility, which still contains its original boiler.
“They’ll have to make a choice,” Toland said of the commissioners, who are stewards of both the old and new county-owned hospitals.
Included in that decision is a commitment on the county’s part to demolish the 80,000-square-foot hospital and clear the property for the new grocery store. The store needs approximately 72,000 square feet, including parking. Also in the plans are for closing off the spur of Madison Avenue that curves to the right and hooks up with First Street. One central entrance to the complex would be used.
Plans include the grocery having a brick or stone exterior, “with lots of glass,” Toland said.
G&W specializes in smaller-size markets. It also is competitive with larger stores such as Walmart because it, too, has in-house brands, Toland said.
If commissioners approve G&W’s request, Toland said a “parallel track” on developing the apartment complexes would be taken.
Toland noted the project has been in the works for several months and that Thrive’s effort to recruit another grocery store to town has been ongoing for two and a half years.
“This store will be a huge shot in the arm to the core of Iola and to the area as a whole,” he said. “But it’s not a done deal, and we need people to speak up if they want to see this happen.”

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