Proposed ABC Store façade will be reminiscent of the old fire station

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

ABC Store representatives, Manager Kevin Vinson and President of the board Steve Mehder, returned to the Town Board in January to present a rendition of the proposed ABC Store in the old fire department building.

The old HFR station of Oak Street.

The ABC Store in Highlands Plaza has run out of space and is in dire need of new digs. 

“This is a necessity, and the ABC Store generates revenue for the town,” said Mehder. “If we don’t go with this, the future of the ABC Store is in question.”

Though the ABC Store is regulated by the state, it is a town entity. As a direct beneficiary of ABC Store proceeds, with the move, the town is likely to receive $400,000 a year if the store can move to the fire station location rent-free.

The $400,000 in proceeds aside, there are a lot of pluses to the idea. 

The merchandise for commercial customers (bars, country clubs and restaurants) which represent 50% of ABC Store sales can be handled separately from the retail customers. Product could be stored and loaded apart from the retail side.

At the Highlands Plaza 4,200 sq. ft. space, the commercial stock as well as stock for the store itself, has surpassed the warehouse area with some boxes stacked in the restroom as well as on the retail floor.

The shaded area illustrates the 4,200 sq. ft. out of which the Highlands ABC Store currently operates at Highlands Plaza. The shaded overlay in on the firestation’s current 6,711 sq. ft. layout.

“We would rather have clean, clear pathways for people to be able to shop comfortably,” he said. “There is also the challenge of having enough room to pack the commercial orders and receive shipments in the warehouse side due to the lack of storage.”

Adding to the problem is the first 3-door cooler which was installed in September to house Ready to Drink beverages because it takes up “sales” area of the store, said Vinson.

“That has really taken off and as that market continues to grow, we will need more coolers and more floor space in the next 3-5 years,” he said.

Since the ABC Store is a town entity it fits the deed requirements of the property – that it be for governmental use. 

Town Manager Josh Ward said he has received numerous calls about using the building for commercial businesses, but it’s not allowed.

Architect Knight Martorell presented a rendition of the 6,700 sq. ft. site whose “look” will be reminiscent of the old fire station. He and Vinson even suggested decorating the interior walls with photos of fire department life in Highlands throughout the ages.

Mehder said knowing more space would be needed in the future, the ABC Store has been setting aside funds. It is in the position to fund 60% of the renovations of the building and can get a loan for the rest with the payoff within five years.

However, it’s too early to say if the Town Board will OK the idea.

Commissioner Marc Hehn wants to consider the use of the entire five-acre tract which includes the Town Hall, Police Station, Playhouse and the Fire Department, before giving the ABC Store the green light.

Commissioner Amy Patterson suggested each of them think about potential uses for the site and return with ideas.

In the end, they gave the ABC Store representatives permission to consult with contractors so they can get an idea of the overall cost.

Pictured at the top of the article is the façade of the proposed ABC Store in the fire station on Oak Street, which would mean moving the elevation forward to connect the wings of the building side-to-side.

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