Closed a year ago

The city of Barron has purchased the former Family Dollar store, pictured above during its last weeks in business, during the 2018 holiday shopping season.

A La Crosse-based real estate company has agreed to sell the former Family Dollar store to the city of Barron at a purchase price of just under $144,000.

Members of the City Council agreed to the proposal Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, at their regular monthly meeting at Barron City Hall.

Negotiated over the past two months by local real estate agent Charles “Chick” Feather, the agreement calls for the city to take over the responsibility of demolishing the building. Earlier proposals called for the owner, Reinhart Real Estate Group, Inc., to bring the building down for an additional $19,800.

Feather told the council that according to Reinhart Real Estate president Mike Pritchard, “in a lot of communities, the detail work on razing buildings should be monitored and supervised by the municipality.”

Feather said the city could use the money it saves on the purchase to hire its own demolition contractor at the time and price it chooses to have the work done.

The building is one of the older structures in the downtown retail area, and it dates back to the turn of the 20th century, according to the News-Shield Sesquicentennial book. Originally owned by Otto Berg and his sons, Martin and Herman, the store dates back to 1902 and has also been the home of the Barron Farmer Store, later known as FS Shopping Center, Hanson’s Family Center, and Kirkwood’s IGA. Family Dollar occupied the building from 1998 until it closed in early 2019.

In an interview early this year, Pritchard said the store has “been in continuous family ownership for more than 100 years. It was one of the first Farmer Stores (in northwest Wisconsin). My dad, Albert Pritchard (1917-2011), started with Farmer Store in Bloomer, and (the business expanded) to Barron, Chetek and Eau Claire.”

Albert Pritchard began working in retail in 1933, at the age of 17, and – except for service in the Armed Forces during World War II -- continued in the business until retiring in 2009, at the age of 92, according to his son.

“The old timers in Barron will remember him,” Mike Pritchard said. “He was involved in the business from his teenage years into his 90s. After the war, he went back to work at Farmer Store and worked his way up.”

City has demolition choices

At Tuesday’s meeting, council member Pete Olson wondered if “it makes sense to offer (the building site) for development, at least in part.

Council member Kevin Haller said the purchase will allow the city to avoid having a contractor “collapse the building on the site, which would make it unbuildable.”

Mike Dietrich, council member, suggested a developer might be attracted to build on the site, rent apartment space on a second story and rent the ground floor to the city.

“With this (purchase agreement), we won’t have to tear the building down until we’re ready to redevelop the site,” council member Rod Nordby said.

The motion to buy the property passed with Olson, Haller, Nordby, Dietrich and council member Paul Solie in support. Council member Maureen Tollman was absent.

In other business at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Barron City Council:

• Approved a payment of $52,000 to Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Maguire Iron, the lead contractor for the city’s new water tower. The $2.2 million tower is scheduled for completion next year. The remaining cost to be paid is just over $487,000. Funding for the tower comes from a federal block grant, a state “Clean Water Fund” loan, and city residents in the form of sewer and water rate payments.

• Paid monthly bills totaling $109,251. Major invoices include $4,053 to the Police Department to buy uniforms and equipment (which will be reimbursed by officers through payroll deductions), $8,447 to Cornerstone Concrete for sidewalk improvements, $52,497 to the Barron County Highway Department to pave a downtown parking lot, and $3,289 to Honeywell for work on the city Municipal Complexheating, ventilation and air conditioning system.