Potential plans for former Plaid Pantry site include Indian grocery story

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– The former ‘Plaid Pantry’ site in La Crosse’s Washburn neighborhood could be developed as soon as this summer. Plans are being drafted to transform the now vacant lot into something new while paying tribute to its historic roots.

The Plaid Pantry stood near the corner of 7th and Jackson Street.

“A real gem for the neighborhood,” said Caroline Gregerson, community development administrator for the city.

The perfect place for the little things like ice cream, sandwiches and cookies. But then it turned into another store that they sold liquor out of, before falling further into disrepair, according to Gregerson.

“That wasn’t good for the neighborhood,” Gregerson said.

It switched hands over the years, with previous plans to develop the site as a community center. When that fell through, the city bought the site in 2017 before purchasing a neighboring home in June of 2018, according to city records. The buildings were torn down and the lots were combined for purchase in 2019.

“This neighborhood really wants to see a new gathering place,” Gregerson said.

That’s exactly what Kalyan Kolouju has in mind. He’s proposed a mixed-use space, with apartments on the second floor and commercial space on the first floor.

“I want to use part of it to have an Indian grocery store. Which is not existent around here,” said Kolouju.

Which he says is a problem for the hundreds of families, like his, from India or other South Asian countries.

“So they have to travel to Rochester or Minneapolis to get their groceries,” Kolouju said.

During this week’s Community Development Committee meeting, the group selected Kolouju’s letter of interest to buy and develop the site.
While there is a long way to go, he said this could be a way to give back to the city, which he’s called home for the last 17 years.

“We were starting to think about investing back in the community and that’s when we saw the sign. And I think it’s a good opportunity for us to have a start-up and invest back in the community,” Kolouju said.

This is really just in the beginning stages. Kolouji will have to develop more concrete plans to present to the committee. The property would have to go through more steps including having the area rezoned and get approval from the common council.

The city said the plans could be finalized within the next three months or so. If approved, construction could potentially get underway this summer.