Question: What sort of new retail store does Madison need most?
clothing/shoes 16 (16%) grocery 38 (38%) Wal-Mart/big discounter 26 (26%) sports/outdoors 8 (8%) movies/videos/games 4 (4%) other 6 (6%)
Total votes: 98
Poll conducted 2010.01.13–19
Discussion about this poll has been lively. As some readers have suggested, the main conclusion here could be that if you're an entrepreneur and you want to make money in Madison, a grocery store is your best bet.
Madison had two grocery stores until 2004. The second store, the old Chuck's/FoodPride, failed to keep up with the updates and expansion at Spies/Jubilee/Sunshine, and appeared to lose in the competition for Madison's grocery dollar. But Chuck's/FoodPride had drawn enough of the market to survive for decades. It didn't close until Dan Roeman, owner of both grocery stores, decided to consolidate his operations.
A second grocery store may not be the easiest route to local entrepreneurial success. Dan Bohl observes that Madison shoppers can get groceries at six stores in Madison. We can also get darn good local meat at Jack's Meat Store and even the pawn shop. But I get the impression local shoppers aren't looking for another store where they can pick up a few specials. They're looking for a big one-stop grocery store where they can get everything they need for a week's eating and for Christmas dinner.
Folks miss the old Jack and Jill, and if Campbell Supply decided to sell the building and let someone reopen a grocery there, it might make a go. But the brief life of Maria's Mexican Grocery indicates shoppers are looking for something bigger, a new store on a scale that might fit in that big, inviting gap between Lewis and Montgomery Furniture. For an entrepreneur, a whole new building of that size, designed to compete head-on with Sunshine, is a lot of risky overhead.
Still, the big risk of a big grocery may be the hopeful new retailers best option in Madison. Consider that the second-most chosen option in the poll was a Wal-Mart or other big-box discounter. Specialty stores didn't register as highly as I thought they might. Maybe the closing of so many specialty shops over the last twenty years—Burg's Shoes, Glen's bike shop, every women's clothing shop, even J.C. Penney's—has created such pessimism that Madison shoppers don't think anything but a big store can survive here.
I'm still short on capital, so I'm going to leave it to other entrepreneurs to decide what risk they want to take here in Madison. But I'm happy to provide some data to help you brave business folks decide where to place your bets. Good luck! And stay tuned... more local market research to come!