COLUMBIA — Hy-Vee will open its second Columbia store on Tuesday at Nifong Boulevard and Providence Road, but it won't stop there. It also plans to open a third store next spring in the former Megamarket on Conley Road. After that, who knows?
"We have plans right now for three stores," Hy-Vee CEO Ric Jurgens said Friday afternoon. "If you look at a map of Columbia and where those three stores are, that's a pretty good coverage area. You know Columbia is growing, so I wouldn't say we'd never have a fourth, but right now we're well-positioned for the long-term."
Hy-Vee opened its first store in 2001 at Broadway and Fairview Road. Ruth Comer, a Hy-Vee spokeswoman, said the nature of the grocery business demands expansion, even in a down economy.
"We really believe we have to continue to expand and upgrade our stores," Comer said. "The supermarket business is very fast-moving, and if you are not trying to innovate, you can very quickly be left behind by customers."
One way she said Hy-Vee is trying to innovate is by adding in-store dietitians and "club rooms," which can be used for meetings and cooking classes. The new Hy-Vee has a club room, but the store on Broadway doesn't.
Comer also said MU makes Columbia an attractive market because of the large employment base it provides and the younger, more mobile population associated with a college town. Jurgens agreed and said Hy-Vee has typically been well-received in college towns.
The new Hy-Vee will open its doors to customers at 6 a.m. Tuesday. It will be the company's 228th store. Jurgens said the 77,700-square-foot store cost "just under" $13 million and will stock more than 36,000 items. He also said the store has created 442 new jobs.
Jurgens said Hy-Vee first looked at the Nifong location, the site of a former Walmart, seven years ago. He said part of the delay in construction was figuring out how to strategically incorporate a second store into the Columbia market.
The new store is right across the street from a Gerbes and little more than a stone's throw away from the Walmart Supercenter. Jurgens said Hy-Vee deals with competition from within, rather than worrying about what other stores are doing.
"We really put all of our energy into what Hy-Vee is, what we can do for our customers and what value we can bring to a community and then let the customers decide where they want to shop," Jurgens said. "If we do the kind of job that we should, Columbia right now can handle these Hy-Vee stores."