OSAWATOMIE — An online auction of city-owned grocery equipment netted more than $56,000 for the city.
The Aug. 13 auction brought in $72,721.25, city officials learned Friday. After all costs and the auction company’s commission were deducted, the city’s share came to $56,449.12. Vision Equipment & Auction Co., based in Covington, Ga., conducted the auction.
The community has been without a grocery store since Ron’s Country Market closed its doors in 2017. The city purchased the nearly new equipment, cabinets and other items through a lease-purchase agreement with First Option Bank at a significantly reduced cost of $150,000 in the hopes of bringing another grocery store to town.
Osawatomie mayor Govea said Monday city officials had hoped to recoup more of their investment in the community.
“Obviously, we’re really disappointed with the outcome,” Govea said of the auction. “We knew we weren’t going to get full price, but we had hoped to maybe get half of it.”
Losing the grocery store caught not just the City Council off guard but everyone in the community, Govea said.
“At the time it was quite a surprise to lose the store, because, gosh, everyone thought it was doing well,” Govea said. “Then one day vendors showed up and couldn’t make deliveries, and employees showed up and they couldn’t get in the door.”
The council went back and forth about what it could do to help the city keep a grocery store, what incentives it could provide to entice another grocery company to set up shop in the bank-owned grocery building at 701 Sixth St.
Council members made a unanimous decision to purchase the equipment, because they knew how important the grocery store was to this community, Govea said.
“I know we are going to receive some criticism, but I think if we would have sat back and done nothing we would have been criticized, too,” he said.
The investment in the grocery equipment almost worked, Govea said.
“We had a company that was serious about opening a grocery store in Osawatomie. They even did a study that showed Osawatomie could support a grocery store,” Govea said. “But they didn’t want the building. It was too large and needed too much work to make it work again for a grocery building. I think they ended up building a new grocery store in Peculiar, Missouri.”
Not all potential buyers were turned off by the building.
Equip-Bid.com, an online auction company, recently purchased the former grocery building from the bank. The real estate deal closed June 24 and the city had 60 days to remove or relocate the equipment.
“It made for somewhat of a tight window,” Govea said.
An online auction looked like the best solution to liquidate the equipment, City Manager Don Cawby and the Council determined.
Govea said it was never his intent or the council’s intent to gamble with the city’s money but rather to try and fill a critical void caused by the grocery shuttering its doors.
“This is my hometown,” Govea said. “I care about this community, the council cares about this community.”