Friday, January 30, 2009

Say hello to a good blog about ShopKo: Revisiting ShopKo's History.

I'd like to begin this month a revised article on the history of ShopKo. Currently the nation's largest regional retailer, ShopKo was established in 1961 by pharmacist James Ruben, formerly of Chicago, Illinois, who had envisioned a discount store combined with a pharmacy and eye care center. ShopKo was originally going to be called Shopco, but the name was changed immediately following his announcement. The first ShopKo location opened in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Military Avenue in 1962. ShopKo opened its second Green Bay location on the east side on Main Street (later Copps Food Center, torn down for new location) in 1966, which moved to its current location on East Mason Street next to East Town Mall in 1988. In 1971, ShopKo announced plans to merge with SuperValu of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The merger lasted until 1997, when the buy-back from SuperValu was completed. That same year, ShopKo's corporate headquarters opens on Pilgrim Way in Ashwaubenon. ShopKo's primary rivals from their beginnings in the 1960s to the 1990s were Kmart, Copps Discount Stores, and the H.C. Prange-owned Prange Way, who wound up in a discounter tug-of-war with ShopKo in much of the 1970s, 1980s, and up until their demise in the mid 1990s. In 1979, ShopKo opens its Ashwaubenon store on Oneida Street. This location is part of a shopping center known as Bay Park Square which has been set to open in fall 1980. ShopKo teamed up wtith SuperValu to open up a hypermarket, called Twin Valu, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Twin Valu was similar to Wal-Mart's Hypermart-USA and Supercenter concepts, as it contained general merchandise on one end, and groceries on the other. When ShopKo opened its 100th store in 1990, ShopKo became a publicly held company. Competition from other retailers like Wal-Mart and Target soon followed when ShopKo expanded outside of the Midwest. In 1991, ShopKo introduced a new merchandising strategy, Vision 2000, as well a new logo, which utilizes the Crillee Extra Bold Italic font, as well as the colors, red white, and blue. In 1996, ShopKo announced a deal to merge with Youngstown, Ohio-based PharMor, which fell apart in 1997. ShopKo went back into expansion mode when they bought out Penn-Daniels Inc., owner of Jacks Discount Stores. ShopKo enters a few new markets with the acquisition of many former Venture locations in 1998. In late 1999, ShopKo opens up a new prototype store in Meridian, Idaho, a suburb of Boise. ShopKo opened its first stand alone pharmacy, ShopKo Express, in Ledgeview, Wisconsin in 2003. In 2005, all three Colorado locations close, and two of the tree have been converted to JCPenney. In 2007, ShopKo introduces a new logo, sans the CamelCase "K", and a prototype store in Suamico, Wisconsin, which opened in 2008, featuring a slew of new features, such as smaller checkouts.


  1. I do like ShopKo: With the exception of a few small B-level outfits, they're the last of the true regional discount chains that once ruled the country. (On that note they remind me of Hills; a chain I grew up with in WV and still miss today.) In addition, they do a great job of maintaining their stores and keeping their presentation clean, inviting, and up-to-date.

    I'm a bit confused by their store numbering, though. The ShopKo here in Manitowoc is store 0003 in the chain: Assuming the numbers were assigned chronologically, I'd assume that this store had been around since the 1960s; yet I'm positive that the store and strip center are at least a decade newer than that...

  2. Never will forget the 'price wars' that ShopKo and Prange Way had in the 1980s. They were always 'price compairing' in their ad circulars and when it came to TV advertising, it always happened where, for example, ShopKo would have their ad in one commercial break, then in the next break there's Prange Way, swinging back at them.

    Ahh, the days when there was more variety and competition in the retail sector.

    My first experience with ShopKo goes back to the early 1980s, with one of their first stores that located outside the Fox Valley / Green Bay region. It was in West Bend WI, as an anchor to the Westfair Mall. An aside, the mall was also anchored by....of all anchors, SuperValu, who of course owned ShopKo at the time.

    I don't have the exact store numbers, but I do have a short list of stores I visited and their opening year / period.

    Of course, I visited the Ashwaubenon location at bay Park Square, which you have down.

    Appleton - Northland Plaza (Don't know the exact year, but it was there since the late 1960s). New modern store constructed in 1981 in preperation to join a soon-to-be-built-out (of a former WT Grant store) Kohl's Dept. Store, both stores linked together by the fully enclosed section of Northland Mall that opened in September 1983.

    West Bend - Westfair Mall (1971) > which moved to - Washington Mall (1987), in which that mall (Washginton, not Westfair) was then expanded and renamed "Paradise Mall" in 1988. Since de-malled, but the ShopKo still stands today. The former ShopKo store became a Roundy's-owned Pick n' Save supermarket.

    Monona (Madison) - South Towne Mall (1981) I'd have to guess one of their first Madison-area stores.

    The aformentioned Manitowoc location.

    Racine's store that opened in 1979 in a former TurnStyle, and soon anchored the now-shuttered Westgate Mall.

    There is also one in Wisconsin Rapids that I also visited, which opened in 1981, anchor to the mall (which is no longer open) bearing its name, ShopKo Plaza. Up the road also is Stevens Point, another location ShopKo held since the late 1960s. First located on Church St. on the south side of town, they then moved to their current digs in 1985, anchoring the now-dead Centerpoint Mall. (the store, like the Wi Rapids location, is still open and thriving though).

    Can't forget my local store either, Fond Du Lac WI, which opened in the summer of 1985 in what was a former Copps Department Store from 1971-autumn 1984.

    I'm a bit more well-versed with Prange Way's history, and know all their original locations, better than I do with ShopKo. When SuperValu owned the chain, they opened up all over the place, not just Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest ,so it's a bit harder for me to pin down the locations they had in the 1970s - early 1980s.

    Even so, still a good capsule-history of one of the last true remaining regional discount stores in the country, or rather, retail chains, period.

    Oh, and for the record, I still try to hit up my local ShopKo for even the simplest necessities (household cleaning, personal grooming), that most others have moved onto Walmart for. Yeah, you pay some cents more...don't care. Call me nuts, or call it supporting the little guy, especially in the tough economic climate we're faced with now.

  3. I also forgot to mention in this article that ShopKo and SuperValu experimented with a hypermarket concept in Ohio, known as "Twin Valu" from 1989 to 1996.

    Read more about it here:

  4. Glad to do shopping at Shopko..nice pics..

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