Onalaska Shopko building, Five Guys Burgers and Lenny’s Shoe Repair are in the news

I’ve got news about a timetable for redeveloping the former Shopko store in Onalaska, the new Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant in Onalaska, and this week’s closing of Lenny’s Shoe Repair in La Crosse.

After 64 years of working with shoes, Lenny Matiak says Friday will be the last day for his Lenny’s Shoe Repair shop at 721 Clinton St. in La Crosse.

“It’s time to retire,” said Matiak, who will be 80 years old in February and owns the business with his wife, Rosemary.

“I’ll miss the customers,” Matiak told me. “Just like they’ll miss me.” Once he closes his business, Dan’s Shoe Repair at 112 Fifth Ave. N. in downtown La Crosse will be the city’s only shoe repair shop.

“I don’t know,” Matiak said, when asked what he and his wife will do with the building. “I’m just going to let it sit idle for a little bit, and figure out whether I want to sell it or rent it, or whatever.”

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The shoe repair shop on the city’s North Side also has sold shoes, boots and footwear accessories, and has repaired other items such as coats and purses.

Lenny began his career at age 15 by shining and repairing shoes at George’s Shoe Shine in downtown La Crosse. He later went to work at Ferris Shoe Repair.

Roger Ferris decided to open a second shoe repair shop at 1232 Caledonia St., which Matiak managed for 10 years. Then Matiak bought the shop. He kept it at the Caledonia Street location for nine years, before constructing his current building at 721 Clinton St., still in the Old Towne North area.

According to an October 1986 La Crosse Tribune story, Matiak – then 43 years old – had recently moved the business into the Clinton Street building.

The new Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant at 3025 S. Kinney Coulee Road in Onalaska is expected to open in February, according to an online posting seeking applications for its general manager position. The posting was made 24 days ago.

Some newer online postings for other jobs at the Onalaska restaurant, which went online last week, invite applicants to “join us at Credo, LLC” but did not say when the eatery will open.

A little online research show that Credo is a Five Guys franchisee operated by Kris Humphries, a former NBA and University of Minnesota basketball star; and by his father, William Humphries. It owns a number of Five Guys restaurants in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Strack Construction Co. Inc. of St. Joseph, Minn., is building out the restaurant’s interior. A city building permit for that work was issued a few weeks ago.

Five Guys will be the last tenant to open in the new three-unit building, which is just north of the new Chick-fil-A restaurant. A Mattress Firm store opened in the middle space in October and Caribou Coffee opened a Caribou Cabin drive-thru and walk-up location in the southernmost space in November.

My inquiries to officials at Five Guys headquarters, including one I made last week, have gone unanswered. Based in Lorton, Va., the chain has more than 1,700 locations across North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

A Florida developer whose company is buying the former Shopko department store at 9366 State Road 16 in Onalaska told me last week that he hopes to start demolition and construction work next month.

Cory Presnick, a principal with Miami-based CORTA Development, also said all five retailers that will fill the expanded building should be open next fall.

I briefly toured the former Shopko store when it was open for three hours Monday for public viewing of lots of shelving, fixtures, displays and other contents that were being auctioned online Tuesday.

I wrote in August about CORTA Development’s plans to acquire, remodel and add on to the former Shopko, creating spaces for five retail stores, including three in the existing building. The store closed in 2019 when the Shopko chain filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its remaining locations.

“We are currently finalizing closing on the property to purchase from Paradise Wisconsin Properties, LLC, and hope to begin initial demo and construction in January,” Presnick said last week.

“All five retailers should be open in fall 2023,” he said. “I cannot announce retailers until we close the transaction.”

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