Big Hollow got some BIG news. Let’s set the stage…
It’s around 2012, Marla, the management crew and the BHFC Board of Directors are ready to explore ways for Big Hollow to expand. Since we rely heavily on the input and ideas from our members, a series of surveys were sent out and conversations began. There were lots of ideas and many possibilities, but the overwhelming consensus from our members was that they wanted Big Hollow to remain downtown. With the knowledge that staying downtown was priority, we shifted our focus to expanding within our current location or moving to another building in the vicinity. We hired an architect and talked about the obstacles and cost of adding to our current building which we rent, not own. We also looked around for a suitable building, not only did we need to find a building that was bigger, but we also had to consider parking and accessibility for receiving truckloads of goods. It seemed options were quite limited and that expansion in any form was going to be expensive.
Meanwhile, Laramie Main Street Alliance had been already working behind the scenes for several years on the “Fox Theater Site Redevelopment” to put together ideas and concepts on how to best fill the empty space at 112 S 2nd Street. They held numerous public meetings and worked with designers and developers to come up with a concept that fulfilled the desires expressed from the community, which were: A multi story, mixed use building on the lot with elements of the original Empress facade. An anchor tenant that will create jobs, attract people downtown and be a good neighbor. Also a desire for the project to generate revenue for LMSA and other downtown revitalization projects.
Fast forward to 2015. After another series of public meetings to determine the highest and best use for the property, Big Hollow Food Coop was identified as the ideal tenant and our hope to expand and grow became a real possibility… but there was still lots of work to be done. And so began the tedious process of grant writing, meetings, presentations, and planning. This took a group of dedicated people, AKA “The Dream Team”, that included Jodi Shea, Sarah Reese, Trey Sherwood, Michael McCamman, Anne Alexander, Jeff Smith, Don McLeod, Jeff Hubbell, and Marla Petersen. Also included in this group are the City of Laramie, the Laramie Main Street Board of Directors, the Economic Vitality BOD as well as Big Hollow’s board.
After a year of dedication, last week the Wyoming Business Council unanimously approved Laramie Main Street Alliance’s $3M request for in fill at the old Empress lot that will be OUR NEW HOME! While our journey isn’t complete, the State Land and Investment Board (SLIB) will vote to approve (hopefully) the project on Jan. 19, we are excited to be at this point in the journey. It has been a long road with many people helping to get us this far! (check out this article in the Boomerang)
This news isn’t JUST exciting and important for us, but for the Laramie community as a whole. We work to support local agriculture business and through our growth will be able to support a wider range of producers. This expansion also means the creation of at least 12 new jobs. Big Hollow is used as a recruitment tool for those looking to bring people into our town as many people looking to move here want the access to speciality items, fresh, local food, and connection with the community that we provide. Along with the other thriving downtown businesses, Big Hollow is a vital part of the downtown economy and with our expansion comes expanding opportunities.
With several years of big changes and additions ahead, now is the time for YOU to get involved. We look to our members to communicate their needs, wants, and dreams for Big Hollow and its future. Along with being a member, there is no better or more exciting time to become a board member than now! If you have ideas, vision, and excitement about the possibilities ahead consider becoming a board member and help shape the future of Big Hollow. For more information on being a board member, click HERE.
This kind of BIG news comes with a lot of BIG hearted people who dedicated themselves to the growth and development of our lovely, little community. A special thanks to the Big Hollow membership as well as the City of Laramie!