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A landscape changed: Family Fresh unveils new concept

Family Fresh commemorated Tuesday morning the completion of its major remodeling project that transformed the old Econofoods grocery store. Shown left to right with managers dressed in the new store uniform: Coffee Manager Andrea Davidson, Bakery Manager Mike Mulhollam, and Produce Manager Lance Conley, City Administrator Scot Simpson, Nash Finch President and CEO Alec Covington, Store Director John Wild, and VP of Corporate Retail Tom Swanson. <i>Debbie Griffin photos</i>

Nash Finch reached a milestone Tuesday, June 26, as it cut the ribbon to celebrate finishing a major remodel of its 28-year-old store in the Riverside Shopping Center, 303 S. Main St.

Store Director and seven-year River Falls resident John Wild said last week the main objective of the project was to increase shoppers' options and convenience, "We didn't actually gain floor space, everything is just arranged differently."

Nash Finch Vice President of Corporate Retail Tom Swanson said about the various offerings, "Everything is bigger and better."

Swanson said River Falls makes the fourth Family Fresh store for Nash Finch to complete.

Three of those stores are in western Wisconsin -- Hudson, New Richmond and now River Falls -- another remodeled store opened in Farmington, Minn., this week.

Wild said the River Falls store had 90 employees before the remodel and now has 125, including a florist and dietician.

Inside and outside, the store and its site reflect a dramatic transformation.

Then, now

Swanson declines to discuss how much Nash Finch spent on improvements, but the developer's agreement dated last year estimated it at $3.5 million.

He also said the company has been extremely busy transforming two stores and "hasn't even thought about" leasing any remaining space in its Riverside Plaza building.

He confirmed that the improvements were made as an investment that will pay off over time. The purpose of the project was to give shoppers a better experience and more options, to improve traffic safety in the area and to beautify the environmentally sensitive area.

Swanson and Wild agree that prices have not increased with the new Family Fresh concept. In fact, they say the project aimed to give people an upscale-but-affordable shopping experience.

Store hours are 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. every day except Christmas. Wild said Wednesday is when senior citizens receive a discount, which recently increased from 5% to 10% -- university students get a 5% discount with a valid student ID.

Wild said feedback about the changes has been good. He likes hearing shoppers tell him they're finding items at Family Fresh that they used to drive farther to find.

Wild and Swanson invite people to several weekends in a row of grand opening activities, which kicked off June 24 and include special promotions, fun for kids and prize drawings. More details about what each weekend holds are available within the store.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Wild and Swanson recognized both customers and the perseverant employees, all of whom endured challenges during the major construction.

As a crowd of company employees, project partners, city officials, customers and others gathered for the celebration, Nash Finch also announced a big book donation for public schools and a contribution of $2,500 to the River Falls Community Food Pantry.

Read more details about the store's changes in the June 28 print edition of the River Falls Journal.