KIMBERLY — A vacant supermarket may at long last see a welcome new occupant — one which may bring as many as 115 needed manufacturing jobs to Kimberly.
Mayor Bob Ellerbrock announced in Tuesday’s city council meeting that a company had expressed interest into buying the former IGA supermarket on Decatur Highway, which has sat vacant since its closing in 2010.
Ellerbrock said that the company, which he would not name but did say is based in the United States, wants to use the facility to manufacture “over-the-counter creams.” At least 75 workers could be employed at first.
“It would be a big deal for Kimberly. It would even be a big deal for north Jefferson County,” the mayor said.
It’s the latest event in the saga of the troubled facility, which originally opened to much fanfare in October 2008.
The IGA store was hailed as a provider of sales tax revenue to a small town that had few other retail businesses, and hoped to generate sorely needed money for city coffers. But sales never met expectations, and the store closed without notice in July 2010.
The grocery was partly owned by Daniel Stone, who was later implicated as part of a gambling and corruption ring in Kimberly. He and six others were arrested on federal charges of bribing Ellerbrock’s predecessor, Craig Harris, who secretly recorded meetings of the group planning installation of electronic gaming machines in houses and bribes paid to Harris to keep police away.
Stone cut a plea deal with federal prosecutors, and received a fine and probation. There is no known connection between the case and the IGA store.
Since that time, the building was repossessed by Peoples Bank, who tried to find a buyer. The bank had one lined up in Church 29:11, which sought to purchase the property and move from its current Mt. Olive building because it needed to expand.
That deal fell through when the Kimberly Council voted down the church’s request to rezone the property last January. Council members and Ellerbrock said at the time that a church moving into the middle of a commercial area would hurt the prospects of other retailers moving nearby because alcohol sales would be curtailed by law; moreover, they wanted the property to remain for commercial use in hopes that a tax-generating occupant would move in. With Ellerbrock’s announcement, those hopes may now come to fruition.
That announcement was the only significant business at Tuesday’s short council meeting, which Ellerbrock joked might set a new unofficial record for brevity.