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Janesville area remains resilient as national chains close

Sam's Club set to stay open in Janesville

JANESVILLE, Wis. - The Janesville community celebrated the grand opening of the first Gander Outdoors in the state Saturday after the former Gander Mountain chain store closed in August.

Randy Luek, from Janesville, said he was a regular at Gander Mountain and was a little upset when it closed.

“I always liked Gander Mountain,” he said. “They had a good variety.”

Luek said he was excited to learn Camping World Holdings, which bought Gander Mountain and closed the stores in August, had rebranded the company and reopened some of the stores.

“They have guns, and the fishing, and they’ve got the camping,” he said. “They added the bikes and that, which they didn’t have before. So they have everything for anybody that wants something. They should be able to find it in there.”

Gander Outdoors isn’t the only chain in Janesville that is staying open while stores across the country close down.

Janesville’s Sam’s Club will also stay open while 63 other stores, including ones in Madison and West Allis, are set to close around the country.

“Janesville is a regional retail hub,” said Gale Price, the city’s economic development director. “We’re drawing from a number of communities. In fact, we know that people from Rockford and Madison come here because it’s just easier to get around.”

He theorizes that the Sam’s Club in Janesville is staying open because there’s no competition in the area.

“One might argue that two Costcos and one Sam’s Club is too much for the Madison market, and maybe that helped to lead to that closing for the Sam’s Club,” Price said. “Costco is very competitive, and people like that store. We don’t have a Costco here, so there’s nothing to directly compete against the Sam’s Club, and we’re really too small for that.”

Price said many large companies have opened in Janesville in recent years, including the Dollar General Distribution Center, which employs more than 500 people.

“When you have those companies move here, you increase the wages and to be competitive, our existing companies have had to adjust wages, and that’s money in people’s pocket and that gets spent,” Price said.

He said the county saw a $500,000 increase in sales tax from 2016 to 2017 and expects the trend to continue as more businesses come to Janesville.

“It’s a mix of new companies coming in and existing companies that continue to grow that’s allowing that,” Price said. “We would anticipate with the redevelopment of the GM site that’s just going to continue that trend. We’re going to be adding jobs here in the community.”

The Sam’s Clubs in Madison and West Allis are scheduled to close Jan. 26.

According to Gander Outdoors’ website, 10 other stores will open in Wisconsin by the end of May, and a total of 67 stores will open around the country.


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