County Market opening moved back to summer
The opening of the much-awaited County Market grocery store in Louisiana has been pushed back to late this summer according to Niemann Foods Consumer Affairs Manager Gerry Kettler.
“We now anticipate opening Aug. 1 or right around there,” Kettler said last week.
Parent company Niemann Foods initially planned to open this spring when it took the old Kroger building over last September.
But Heimer Construction of Taylor ran into project-slowing problems when it began gutting the building for a $3 million renovation, Kettler said.
“We had an asbestos abatement issue,” Kettler said.” “When you are dealing with an older building you have no idea what you’re getting into.”
The asbestos issue is minor, “but time consuming,” Kettler said. Heimer Construction found asbestos in the glue that held down the floor tiles in the building on Georgia Street.
The asbestos has to be sealed or disposed of properly to satisfy government regulations, Kettler said.
The discovery also caused Niemann Foods to redraw its floor, shelving and building hardware plan.
“We have to do what’s right,” Kettler said. “I know that’s hard to explain to a town without a grocery store.
“No one wants this to happen more than us. We’re spending $3 million in the community,” Kettler said. “The process has taken us longer than we wanted it to.”
Louisiana City Council member Kathy Smith and Mayor Tom Wallace said at the Monday, Feb. 3 council meeting they had received numerous calls in recent weeks wondering if and when the County Market would open.
However, Wallace said he had been assured by Niemann Foods President Rich Niemann that “they are committed and coming. We have to keep a positive outlook.”
Kroger closed in October 2012 and community leaders began looking for a replacement right away because Louisiana had no full-service grocery store left.
Niemann told a crowd at a community hall meeting in November 2012 that County Market was extremely interested in filling the void, but warned that it wasn’t in stone.
After looking at various sites in the city, Niemann and Wallace announced in May 2013 that County Market was coming.
However, lease negotiations with property owners Raul Walters Properties of St. Louis were slow to develop and Kroger’s lease with the firm lasted until September 2013.
Niemann Foods wasn’t allowed into the building until then and Heimer Construction began demolition in October.
Niemann Foods is now hoping to start remodeling construction by March 1, Kettler said.
“It should take about four months, barring anything else,” he said. “Then we have to put product into the store. We’re still coming and we’re excited.”
The new County Market will employ about 75 people. A job fair to fill those positions will be held prior to the opening.