An independent grocery store could replace Tom's Market after it closes, but no deal has been finalized.
Joe Koppeis, owner of the shopping complex where Tom's Market pays rent, said he would be willing to open his own market in the space as long as the community would support it.
He's developed, owned and operated markets and retail stores for decades. That's why the idea of opening his own market in Freeburg isn't far-fetched. Koppeis has already appointed a person to run the store and has applied for a liquor license.
“We can’t make it work if you all don’t support it,” Koppeis said Wednesday during a special meeting about future plans for the space.
More than 100 Freeburg residents and people from surrounding communities showed up for the brainstorming session at Freeburg Elementary.
Tom’s Market is expected to close soon. The grocery chain recently closed its location in Nashville, and when the Freeburg store closes, the Mascoutah location will be the last Tom's Market standing.
"This was something we had hoped to avoid," Don Norrenberns, the owner of Tom's Market, wrote in an email Feb. 14. "Letting go of these stores has been very emotional. We love the people we serve and the talented team that works with us."
Koppeis said he started searching for solutions as soon as he was notified about Norrenberns' plans to close Tom's in Freeburg. He’s invested $10 million into the community, which is why he’s willing to open an independent market.
He said he can't afford for the space to be vacant.
Aldi, Trader Joe's, Schnucks, Walmart Marketplace, Shop N’ Save and other franchises were mentioned Wednesday during the open discussion moderated by the Freeburg Village Administrator Tony Funderburg.
Koppeis said those companies are hard to recruit because the village is small.
About 4,300 people live in Freeburg.
That’s not enough to attract national franchises to the area, Koppeis explained Wednesday night.
“I like small towns,” he told the crowd. “Have done really well with them, but you are limited in what you can bring in.”
That’s also why Koppeis is taking steps to save the pharmacy inside of Tom's Market.
Customers initially thought the pharmacy would close and be moved to the pharmacy down the road, but Koppeis said that's not the plan.
He's in the process of purchasing the pharmacy where he has already made repairs to the drive-thru. It will operate under the power of attorney until the deal is complete.
Freeburg resident and Tom’s Market pharmacist Meghan Heuring welcomed the news Wednesday night.
“My kids go to school here, we grocery shop here, we use the pharmacy,” Heuring said. “For me personally, as an employee of the store, it was very easy for me to grab my dinner as I walked out of work. Now, it does take more planning. It does affect your budget and the bottom dollar for your family, too.”
The pharmacy will remain open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The pharmacy, which will serve customers during construction and the transition, is closed on Sunday.
Freeburg residents in need of a ride to area grocery stores can call St. Joseph Catholic Church at 618-539-3209, or St. Paul's United Church of Christ at 618-539-3262.
Residents with additional ideas about the next steps for the village can email Funderburg, the Freeburg village administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.