The response from the public for the new Southside Sinclair fuel station in Wadena has been positive enough that owners are considering expansion projects at the business that's been operating just six months.
The Wadena City Council approved entering into a Purchase and Right of First Refusal Agreement with Patrick Hunke for Lot 3, Block 2, of the Wadena Business Park Addition during their regular council meeting Tuesday, June 9. This additional lot would allow the business to secure further ground to add more fueling stations, a convenience store and an attached car wash.
Hunke’s chose to move to the southside location last year after the need arose to move from their fuel site along Hwy 10 with the pending reconstruction of the highway. Since December, the fuel station has been allowing pay-at-the-pump fuel 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Ryan Hunke spoke with city council members about the proposal and shared that the convenience store could have ready-to-eat-food, some grocery items and if the city was on board, a potential second municipal liquor store location.
“There is a need for food and fuel south of town, I think we can all vouch for that,” Hunke said.
To meet the expected increase in demand for fuel, Hunke is considering adding another canopy and more fuel pumps to the north of the existing center. The site plan for this project shows there is a need for more space than is available on lot 4, as such they are requesting a purchase option to Hunke Realty on lot 3 of the Wadena business Park and approval to assign the current option on lot 4 from Hunke Fuel to Hunke Realty.
Hunke emphasized that talk of the city renting a portion of the convenience store for liquor sales was very preliminary. He simply wanted to “spitball” the idea to council members to hear their thoughts. In his opinion, the move would be a win-win for both the fuel station and the city. Hunke said he’s been hearing about people not pulling into the current location due to a crowded parking lot, or due to the difficulty to turn in under the current road access restrictions.
The idea brought considerable discussion from all council members.
Councilman Mark Lunde asked if a rental space would be added even if the city was not interested in the liquor store option. Hunke said that space would require backing from the city as it was a large investment.
“We really would love the backing of this foot traffic,” Hunke said.
Lunde next asked if it was safe to say that the business was doing well enough to consider such an expansion. Hunke expanded on the state of the business sharing that the funds the business received from the state to move their business helped them cover some costs involved in the new location, which gave them a good start without excessive debt.
Lunde said he would love to see another location, but was unsure at this time that it would be profitable without further information.
In looking at what other cities are doing, City Administrator Janette Bower found out that the city can start a second location, and doing so is much easier than starting the first location. It requires a city resolution. That was encouraging to her to know there were not as many hoops to jump through in order to make for a speedy process if needed. Bower referenced Lakeville, Minn., a city of about 66,000, was opening a fourth municipal liquor store.
Councilman Bruce Uselman said it looked like a great idea, but there was a lot to think about for the city to consider such a move. Mayor George Deiss said those passing through Wadena are going to have and already have difficulty turning around to get into the current liquor store, especially those with boats and campers that miss a turn. Deiss said a traffic count would be a major help to see how helpful this would be.
Wadena Economic Development Director Dean Uselman echoed that statement.
“A lot of people traveling on Hwy 71 will turn in there because it is so much easier than negotiating the traffic and the new center curbs of Hwy 10 in the 10/71 vicinity,” Uselman said.
Hunke shared that the retail rental space would be about 2,500 -2,700 square feet. That would be larger than the city's current location.
Wadena Liquor Store Manager Tim Booth said it was difficult to know just how well a second location would do, whether it would just take away from the current location or add to it. He believed that it would be a convenience to those on the southside of town. He also shared that the city is going through a liquor store feasibility study that may shed light on what would be a good move.
“If I was traveling, I would probably go there,” Booth said.
Booth considered that with payroll and rent, possibly around $140,000 a year, they would have to sell nearly $700,000 in product to pay for the added cost of a second location.
“It’s going to be a risk,” Hunke said. But he considered that those traveling south on Hwy 71 don’t have another place to purchase until Sauk Centre. He didn't want to completely focus on the liquor store, however.
“I think all together this plan would be great for the community, I think it would work,” Hunke said. “It’s hard to think it wouldn’t.”
No decisions were made regarding the liquor store idea. All parties agreed to continue the conversation.
The Wadena Development Authority board reviewed the proposal of the option to purchase and the right of first refusal prior to the council meeting and recommended approval of the option to purchase lot 3 for the posted price of $20,000, as well as the assignment of the current option to purchase lot 4 under the same terms as written. All council members were in favor of the WDA recommendation.
While the agreement states that Hunkes have the right to purchase for a five-year period, Ryan Hunke said that expansion by next spring was possible. Hunkes right of first refusal means that if a third party makes an offer on the same piece of property during the next five years, Hunkes Realty has 15 days after that notice to enter into a purchase of the property with closing to take place within 60 days. They can also choose to not purchase during the period and the city can sell to another interested buyer.