Old Country site

This deteriorating sign, removed from its pedestal and discarded at the front of the property, is the only remnant of Old Country Buffet where the restaurant used to stand at at 9417 Hwy. 16 in Onalaska. In the background is the property, leveled in anticipation of being the site for two new buildings. At right is an Olive Garden restaurant.

The veil of mystery may be lifted soon from the Onalaska land where Old Country Buffet once let patrons pile on all they could eat at 9417 Hwy. 16 — until it closed abruptly in June 2016.

“Something is definitely going in,” a spokeswoman for MBA-Architects Inc. in Holmen said Tuesday. “Plans are under tight wraps.”

The developer will say only that the project, which will include two buildings, “still is looking for tenants,” said the spokeswoman for MBA, which will lead the project.

The Old Country building was razed in July, and orange erosion control fencing surrounds the wide expanse of property between an Olive Garden and a Kwik Trip at South Kinney Coulee Road, across the highway from Target and Kohl’s, among others.

No building permits have been issued for the property, said Calvin King, who is in charge of commercial building permits for the city of Onalaska. However, the developer’s proposed site plan includes two buildings — one of 5,000 square feet and the other 7,500 square feet of retail space, with the capability of housing three tenants, King said.

The smaller building is expected to house a restaurant, according to earlier reports.

A ReMax First Choice realty billboard advertising space for lease at the site stipulates possibilities ranging from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet. The agent listed on the billboard didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The Onalaska Old Country closed without notice to patrons or workers on June 14, 2016.

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Old Country was founded in Minnesota in 1983 and was based in the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan until 2012.

Ovation Brands, which owned Old Country and several other all-you-can-eat, buffet-type restaurants, had shuttered hundreds of the buffets before declaring bankruptcy early in 2016. Privately held Food Management Partners, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, now owns Old Country, which has shrunk to 22 restaurants in 12 states, including two in Wisconsin — in Eau Claire and Greenfield.

Mike Tighe can be reached at mtighe@lacrossetribune, or follow him on Twitter @necktye.


(1) comment


I would Love to see a Chic-Fil-A in Onalaska or La Crosse. Sooooo goood

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