GALESVILLE — Thaler Oil Co.’s plan to tear down the century-old building next to its old convenience store/gas station to make way for a new, larger Express Mart complete with laundromat and automatic car wash in downtown Galesville drew opposition from some residents last spring.
But now that the new Express Mart has opened, people seem to appreciate the effort the Chippewa Falls-based company made to have it blend in with the others on the town square.
The old Express Mart and the former Galesville Republican newspaper building, which was constructed in 1906, were demolished in fall. The new Express Mart opened Jan. 24 at 16894 S. Main St.
“I would have preferred that they renovate the (former newspaper) building,” said Sally Reimer, co-owner of Renaissance Breads & Pastries bakery on the town square. “But I’m glad they took more time to make (the new building) fit in with the square and make it more pleasing to the eye. And it’s nice to see the spot being used.”
The new Express Mart is a “huge asset” to downtown Galesville, said Jackie Olson, who owns Jackie O’s Coffee House, also on the town square. “They did an amazing job with the building.”
About 95 percent of the comments he heard last spring about the Galesville project were positive, said Dan Olson, general manager of Thaler’s retail division, which includes 15 convenience stores and eight laundromats. And since the new Express Mart opened, he said, “I haven’t heard any negative comments.” Some of last year’s critics have told him they like the new facility, he added.
Last spring, the city’s historic preservation commission voted 3-2 against the company’s proposal, citing concerns over the precedent it might set for razing a century-old building downtown. But the city council later unanimously approved the plan, with members saying the economic benefits were too much for Galesville to pass up.
The new Express Mart has added the community’s only functioning laundromat and car wash, and its convenience store is larger and more modern than the old one, with a bigger selection of merchandise.
The laundromat has about 800 square feet of space with 12 washing machines and 10 dryers, and the convenience store has about 2,200 square feet. In between is an area with tables and chairs and Internet connections where people can sit while they’re doing laundry, drinking coffee or eating.
“We used a lot of brick and limestone and some other details to make sure it would fit in” with other buildings on the town square, Olson said of the building’s exterior. That included using smaller bricks than typically are used on modern buildings.
“The materials we used in general were a substantial cost increase,” Olson said.
The single-story building has parapet walls on three sides to make it appear taller and blend in better with the nearby buildings, he said.
“I had an old, small, antiquated store” before the decision to buy the adjacent building and tear both down, Olson said. The future of the old Express Mart was in doubt, he added.
While some Galesville residents suggested incorporating the former newspaper building into the new facility, Olson said the building was in bad shape and he didn’t think it was economically feasible.
“I’m very, very happy, and I’ve gotten tremendous response” to how the project turned out, Olson said.
The new Express Mart typically will have 12 to 14 employees, Olson said. A few jobs were added because of the laundromat, the car wash and the kitchen, where hot food items such as onion rings, soups, hamburgers,
hot dogs and pizza are prepared.
Besides hot food, other new features at the Express Mart include milkshakes, hand-dipped ice cream, a beer cave and additional customer parking spaces.
Photos of historic Galesville scenes, including the town square, hang on walls, and the old Express Mart’s BP gas pumps and canopy were kept for the new facility.
EXPRESS MART OPENS ON GALESVILLE SQUARE
WHAT: Thaler Oil Co. razed its old, smaller Express Mart convenience store/gas station and an adjacent century-old building last fall, and built a larger Express Mart on the downtown Galesville site, designed to blend in with other buildings on the town square.
WHEN: The new Express Mart opened Jan. 24.
HOURS: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.