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By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound Travel Stop ceased doing business in Elk Mound as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, September 5.
The Elk Mound Travel Stop, located on the east side of Elk Mound on U.S. Highway 12, was one of 13 convenience store locations out of 31 owned and operated by the Mega Consumers Cooperative that were closed as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, according to various news sources.
Mega Co-op made the announcement in a news release on Friday, September 1, that 13 of the 31 locations would be closing, the news sources reported.
The Colfax Messenger sent an e-mail message to Mega Co-op asking for a copy of the news release but did not receive a reply.
In the September 1 announcement, Mega Co-op reportedly did not specify which stores would be closing, but that the cooperative intended to close 13 stores by September 5.
Mega Consumers Cooperative filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on September 1, and the cooperative reportedly filed motions to continue paying employees. In addition to paying employees, cash collateral also would allow the cooperative to pay vendors, suppliers and other additional stakeholders.
Cenergy LLC and Consumers Cooperative Association of Eau Claire owned the chain of 31 stores jointly, and many of the stores operate under the Holiday brand, news reports state.
News reports also state that in court documents, the cooperative is closing the 13 locations because they have “consistently negative cash flows.”
Village of Elk Mound
The Village of Elk Mound purchased gasoline and diesel fuel from the Travel Stop for village equipment.
Mark Levra, director of public works, told the Elk Mound Village Board at the September 5 meeting that the village’s clerk-treasurer, Karin Wolf, was working on updating the Shell card the village used so that Elk Mound can buy fuel at other locations.
The school district also is planning to get a 1,000 gallon diesel tank and has offered to sell diesel to the village at cost, Levra said.
The village does not use very much diesel currently, he noted.
Terry Stamm, village president, said he had received many telephone calls about the Travel Stop closing.
The Elk Mound school district has not yet committed to obtaining a 1,000 gallon diesel tank, said Eric Wright, school district administrator, in a conversation with the Colfax Messenger on September 6.
If the school district does decide to install a tank, the school district will talk to several companies to find out what options are available, he said.
“My hope is that someone will open the store again,” Wright said.
The Elk Mound school district purchased diesel and unleaded fuel from the Elk Mound Travel Stop for the school buses, lawn mowers, mini-vans and other school district vehicles, he said.
The Travel Stop also came to the rescue of the school district on several occasions.
One time, the truck delivering milk to the school district went into the ditch on the way to Elk Mound.
Wright said he went to the Travel Stop and bought out all of the milk the store had in stock.
“If we needed bread or milk, they were always awesome,” Wright said.
For now, the Elk Mound school district will send the buses and other vehicles to the Mega! Holiday station or the Kwik Trip at the North Crossing to obtain fuel, he said.
As for the 1,000 gallon tank, Wright said he does not yet know what the cost would be or what would be involved for permits.
“It will take time to get the permits and to install it,” he said.
If the school district does install a diesel fuel tank, the district has offered to sell diesel fuel to the village at cost, Wright said.
Wright said he and his wife were on their way up north Friday for the Labor Day weekend when his wife saw a news item on social media about Consumers Mega Co-op filing for bankruptcy and closing 13 of the convenience stores.
His wife commented that it would probably affect the Elk Mound school district, said Wright, who had responded that if the Elk Mound Travel Stop closed it would definitely impact the Elk Mound school district.
Elk Mound students also would stop at the Travel Stop to get something for lunch to bring to school, he noted.
The Eau Claire Farmer-Labor Cooperative Association was founded in 1935 when 67 people joined together to buy a train car load of coal to heat their houses, according to the Mega Co-op website.
The next year, the cooperative changed its name to Consumers Cooperative Association of Eau Claire and bought a two-pump gasoline station on Wisconsin Street in downtown Eau Claire.
In 1946, the cooperative purchased a coal yard and a bulk petroleum plant and four trucks to deliver coal and petroleum.
The Consumers Cooperative Association has more than 20,000 members, according to the website.
The Mega Co-op website lists Mega! Holiday locations in Eau Claire at North Crossing, Highland Avenue, Craig Road, Highway 93, Jeffers Road, Commercial Boulevard, Golf Road, Birch Street, Clairemont Avenue, and in Chippewa Falls and Arcadia, as well as Travel Stops in New Lisbon and Colby, and the Lake Wissota Travel Stop on county Highway X, Chippewa Falls.