A new Save-a-Lot grocery store opened in March along Milwaukee’s Fond du Lac Avenue corridor, providing the only full-service grocery store in the city’s Park West neighborhood. The project also revitalized a vacant building, which had operated as a grocery store for more than 20 years before closing in 2014. Investments from IFF and the Save-a-Lot corporation enabled substantial repairs and renovations on the structure.
“Having a grocery store in a community makes a big difference. Save-a-Lot has a better assortment of food, at prices that are more reasonable, than convenience stores,” says Greg Martin, one of three brothers who co-own the property. The Martin family has operated Lena’s Food Market in Milwaukee for more than 50 years, and this building was the site of one of their first stores. “The Save-a-Lot model is similar to our model: provide our customers with healthy, quality products at affordable prices. I believe they will have a positive impact on the community.”
Save-a-Lot signed a 10-year lease with the Martin brothers and invested $800,000 in improvements to the interior, façade, and parking lot. IFF provided a $1 million loan to enable other improvements and re-structure debt on the property.
This is not IFF’s first time investing in stores operated by Save-a-Lot. IFF also owns two grocery stores operated by Save-a-Lot in Illinois. All of the IFF-invested stores are located in areas that would otherwise be food deserts.
“The Save-a-Lot model provides a critical source of fresh, affordable food in communities that would otherwise be food deserts,” said Matt Roth, IFF’s President of Core Business Solutions. “We have a lot of history working with them, and that made us feel confident in this investment.”
IFF has developed underwriting expertise in the healthy food lending space over the last five years, during which time IFF has lent approximately $17.3 million to healthy food initiatives in eight states. Much of this work is supported with equity from the Illinois Fresh Food Fund and the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative, programs that provide grants and loans to projects like grocery stores, farmers markets, food hubs, co-ops, and other food access businesses in areas of need.