U-Haul has purchased a West Baraboo shopping center, setting up a showroom in a long-dormant Maurice’s clothing store, and will use a shuttered Sears store for storage space rental.
The national moving company closed on its purchase of WestDayl Plaza at the end of October, and opened its showroom Nov. 6.
“We wanted to get a showroom up and be a part of the community,” said Adam Sonnleitner, president of U-Haul in southwestern Wisconsin.
In recent years, U-Haul has served Baraboo-area customers through four local dealers. The company will continue to work with those dealers, Sonnleitner said, while also offering truck rentals, storage, moving supplies and trailer rentals at its new West Baraboo retail location.
Sonnleitner said U-Haul was drawn to the location because it offered expansive, available retail space and ready access to the new, four-lane U.S. Highway 12 route. Renovating existing stores, rather than building new, avoided the need for an estimated 1,400 tons of metal and 6,500 tons of concrete. Sonnleitner said 8,000 tons of construction debris was kept out of landfills.
“We do like to repurpose old buildings,” he said.
Covering 16 acres, WestDayl was once a retail hub, featuring a grocery store, Walgreen’s pharmacy, Cost Cutters hair salon and JCPenney store, in addition to Sears and Maurice’s. Walgreen’s, Maurice’s and Cost Cutters moved in recent years, and JCPenney closed. That left the grocery as the shopping center’s only operating business. Festival Foods will remain, renting its space from U-Haul.
Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bobbie Boettcher said she hopes the new owner will reinvigorate the shopping center.
“U-Haul is a respected brand. We’re lucky to have them,” she said. “It’s great to see fresh activity at WestDayl.”
U-Haul hopes traffic pouring off Highway 12 at the Highway 136 exit will bring customers to U-Haul and other businesses that may rent space at WestDayl.
“We can pull them right off the highway,” Sonnleitner said. “It comes down to location.”
He said the company hasn’t determined how much space it will use, or how much it might rent or lease to other businesses. After renovations are complete, climate-controlled storage will be available next year.
“We’re kind of in the very, very early stages of it,” he said. “We haven’t decided exactly what we’re going to do with it.”
On-site manager Ray Pooler will lead a staff of at least five employees. U-Haul is open six days a week.