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November 24th, 2020

grand avenue market blueprintROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


After more than a decade of work, a project in the community of Plains will soon become a reality.

Tuesday, the Community Enhancement Foundation of Plains (CEFOP) announced its first project, a grocery store, will be constructed in an effort to keep the town a great place to live and call home.

CEFOP President Jeanne Roberts said the final piece of the puzzle was put into place last Friday when a loan from the Illinois Facilities Fund (IFF) was approved.

“We finally got everything lined out,” she said. “It was a lot of tedious work, but it ended up working out in the end.”

With that loan now signed, Roberts said the project is 100 percent ready to go. In addition to IFF, the foundation closed on a construction loan with Heartland Tri-State Bank.

“Heartland does the construction loan, and when the construction is finished, our USDA loan will come in and pay Heartland off,” she said. “Heartland has to provide us with a letter of credit for the next 10 years.”

Roberts said local contractor Ron Eakes of JKL Construction will be starting construction this winter, and the new Grand Avenue Market will be up and going in summer 2021.

CEFOP member Jonathan Elliott credited much of the work in making the grocery store possible to Roberts, who has been part of the project since its inception. He added the store is a big project and has taken a lot of planning and research.

“There’s been so many hurdles to get through,” he said. “It’s exciting. Jeanne’s been good at just pushing through and helping everyone out on that, and she’s had support on that too.”

Roberts said there has been much in the way of help from all directions.

“There hasn’t been just one person,” she said. “It’s been a lot of people. There’s other people besides people who have been on the board prior. We’ve had support throughout the town, throughout the state of Kansas and even nationally. We’ve made a lot of contacts through the years.”

Roberts said the foundation is looking at a groundbreaking date, but that date has not been set at this time.

“The contractor wants to review those plans, make sure everything is exactly the way we want it, and then we’ll set a groundbreaking date,” she said.

So after all the hard work to get a grocery store in Plains, how does it feel for the project to become a reality.

“It’s more relief than excitement,” Roberts said. “Finally, it’s going to happen.”

The CEFOP announced the news Tuesday night at a meeting, and Roberts said foundation member Lindsey Roberts put up a teaser on Facebook Tuesday morning saying there was going to be a big announcement that night.

“We’ve had several people comment on it, but I think we’ll get a whole lot more comments after we actually tell them what’s going on,” Jeanne said prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “A lot of them lost faith over the years, and I think that’s probably a big part of it. They just said it wasn’t ever going to happen.”

Jeanne added the foundation has come up with the best fit for both Plains and Kismet, the communities Grand Avenue Market will serve.

“We’re hoping there’ll be a lot of community support and excitement behind it,” she said. 

Elliott said many people in the Plains community are looking to the grocery store as a more convenient way to get things they need.

“I think there’s a lot of people just looking for opportunities,” he said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Yes, I want to see it.’ They want to see what’s behind it. They want to go shopping and not have to drive a long ways. I think people are excited, but we don’t know how excited they are yet.”

Still, Jeanne said some may not feel the excitement until the project officially breaks ground.

“We are going to put a sign on the lot to tell people the groundbreaking is going to happen,” she said.

Jeanne said she is expecting a great level of support for the store, and even 2020’s biggest story is providing some optimism for the project.

“It’s sad to say, but I think COVID-19 is going to help us because people want to stay out of the bigger towns with all the people shopping at the same time,” she said. “I think people needing to stay closer to home and not out in the public is going to help us.”

With the project taking more than a decade to come to fruition, Jeanne listed many of the events and people who have made Grand Avenue Market possible.

“Our big fundraiser was the Kansas Community Tax Credits, and we’ve won that twice,” she said. “All of the money from the tax credits, except for one person, maybe two, was either in Plains or Kismet that actually bought the tax credit. The money is coming from this community. We’ve gotten grants from the Southwest Kansas Foundation. We’ve gotten two grants from Southern Pioneer. We’ve got two grants from Sunflower Foundation of Topeka. We’ve gotten donations from people who supported it. We’ve also done fundraisers through the years – the walk-a-thon, the 5K run, the tree of lights, Second Chance Prom. We did a burrito supper, a Valentine’s dinner.”

Each year, the Meade County community hosts its annual Christmasing in Plains event in early December. Jeanne said some of the funding from that has been used for the grocery store, as has another fundraiser featuring a deck of cards with the names of some of the town’s businesses on them.

“They purchased the card and were able to use the face of the card as their advertisement,” she said.

The store will include a top-notch meat department and a commercial kitchen incorporated into the store. 

Using this commercial kitchen, the store will provide:

• Healthy eating/snacking classes.

• Cooking classes; Hispanic, German Mennonite and American.

• Canning classes

• A Dream Dinner type program – The store takes care of all the  shopping, chopping, prep and clean up, allowing customers to put the ingredients  together so you have meals to enjoy at home with family. Many meals can be made and freeze for later use

• Weekend meals are available to senior citizens, shut-ins or just for anyone who does not want to cook. 

• Recipes will be available using the food items on sale that week.

• The kitchen will be available to rent to entrepreneurs who need a commercial kitchen to prepare food items for resale.

• The store could have a day for pies, cookies, burritos, gorditas, bierocks and smoothies, just to name a few.

Liberal’s El Kan Drug has agreed to bring prescription medications to Plains each weekday and give customers a 30 to 45-minute time span to pick-up medications, the store will be the pick-up point. An El Kan Drug Store employee will disperse the medications.

Jeanne said the foundation will keep everyone posted as to when breaking ground will take place, and she is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the project.

“We’re not quite across the finish line yet, but we’re close,” she said. 

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