Grafton Shopko one of six to close

By Melanie Boyung

Jan. 15, 2019

A man stood at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Falls Road Sunday, alerting drivers to the markdowns at Shopko.
Photo by Lisa Curtis

GRAFTON — Weeks of rumors about the demise of the Shopko store in Grafton are now official. The store at 1771 Wisconsin Ave. is slated to close April 7.

Over the past two weeks, talk has circulated about the store’s pharmaceutical vendors saying in court that Shopko owed them $67 million and would declare bankruptcy this week.

Late last week, Shopko representative Michelle Hansen confirmed to several media outlets that six Wisconsin locations of Shopko would be closing in April, including in Grafton.

The upcoming departure of Shopko has stirred memories and sadness for some. The News Graphic put out a request to readers on Facebook to share their thoughts on the news, and for some, the store’s absence will be a significant loss.

“I will very much miss Shopko. When I was diagnosed with cancer, the pharmacy workers all were so kind and helpful,” Sarah Bub commented. “I’ve become friends with them and they have been some of my biggest cheerleaders and I will miss them terribly. They know everything I’ve gone through. When I go to a new pharmacy it will be so different. They won’t know my story … or me … the way everyone does now. Shopko is one of the few stores I still enjoyed shopping in.”

Others commented that they used to work at the store, met close friends there or remember being part of the original employee crew that opened the Grafton Shopko.

Some commented that they always picked Shopko to stop for school supplies or holiday items, and others recalled fun memories that occurred in Shopko.

“My favorite memory is loitering there with my friends before the Grafton Fourth of July fireworks started, and random summer afternoons. All during the mid-2000s,” Jordan Schroeter wrote. “During one instance, a couple of friends and I bought Silly String from the toy department, sprayed it all over me in my wheelchair and then I drove around the store. Juvenile, but fun. The manager came outside by us laughing.”

Shopko representatives have not returned calls or emails from the News Graphic requesting further information on whether the Ashwaubenon-based company will declare bankruptcy, and no information has been shared on whether more locations, or the company as a whole, will be closed moving forward.

The other five locations announced for closure were Appleton, La Crosse, Menasha, Seymour and Sussex. The six stores announced this month, which were expected to begin clearance liquidation sales this week, are in addition to 39 stores across the country that were announced last month as closing in February. Only one of those 39, located in Mauston, is in Wisconsin.

Other area stores, such as the West Bend location, continue to operate without any closing announced thus far.

Also last month, Shopko announced it would close 42 of its pharmacies nationwide as a section of the company’s pharmacy branch was sold to The Kroger Co., which owns Pick ’n Save stores; the Grafton Shopko’s pharmacy closed last week as part of that transaction.

On Jan. 7, Shopko representatives were in Brown County Circuit Court with representatives from McKesson Corp., one of the national retail chain’s pharmaceutical vendors. According to McKesson’s complaint against Shopko, they supplied approximately $67 million of pharmaceutical products to Shopko since November, which the retailer has not paid for.

It was one of McKesson Corp.’s lawyers, Jeff Garfinkle, who said during the hearing that Shopko would file for bankruptcy. He was reported as saying then that McKesson expected Shopko to file this week, in an attempt to protect itself against its debts to various creditors.

McKesson went to court seeking an injunction to prevent Shopko continuing to sell the pharmaceuticals that the company had provided the retailer, arguing in court that they will not be able to recoup their own costs if Shopko continued selling the product. The injunction request was denied on grounds of public safety, that customers who need the medications could end up cut off from necessary treatments.

A Bloomberg report in December cited unnamed people with internal knowledge of Shopko as saying Shopko was preparing then for a potential bankruptcy filing, though it was unknown whether such a filing would be followed by companywide liquidation or a restructuring to save the company.