FENNIMORE, Wis. — By the end of the year, Fennimore is expected to see the construction of a new 22,000-square-foot supermarket — nearly triple the space of the city’s current grocery store.

While the undertaking sounds ambitious, Randy Bender, co-owner of Bender’s Foods, expressed confidence the market can support his business’ expansion.

“We did a market study three years ago,” he said. “You do the math and that tells you how big a building you need to capture that business … along with building for the future.”

Bender and his wife, Marta Bender, co-own the Bender’s chain, which includes four stores, located in Bellevue and Guttenberg, Iowa, and Fennimore and Muscoda.

Once the new building is constructed, they plan to relocate their Fennimore operation, at 320 Lincoln Ave., across the street to 325 Lincoln Ave. They anticipate crews will begin work May 15, and the store will open Nov. 15.

The $4.5 million project will be funded with multiple grants, city tax-increment financing dollars and private equity, Randy Bender said.

On Wednesday, before a crowd of local and state economic development leaders and lawmakers, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awarded the City of Fennimore a $250,000 grant to help finance capital improvements on the structure.

“These projects are so important to our downtowns,” said WEDC Deputy Secretary and COO Tricia Braun. “Continuing to invest and take on really challenging projects like this is important to making sure that they have a vital future.”

City leaders anticipate the grocery will draw shoppers from throughout the region.

“Hopefully with the addition of a new grocery store, others can see Fennimore as more than a place you drive through to get somewhere,” said Mayor Ryan Boegel. “It may very well be a great place to start or expand a business.”

The building that currently houses Bender’s Foods was constructed in the 1960s and was remodeled twice, Randy Bender said.

“It’s outdated,” he said. “It’s not big enough to support everything that we need to do as far as perishables, bakery, deli, that sort of thing.”

After the relocation, the current building will either be sold or rented to another business, Bender said.

Bender anticipates the new store could employ as many as 100 workers, 20 of whom would occupy full-time positions.

Assistant store manager Rhonda Arndt said she is “scared to death” by the prospect of managing an expanded department, but believes customers will benefit from new product offerings.

“I’ve had a lot of customers ask a lot about organic (produce), and we have such a space issue, we don’t have the room to bring things like that in,” she said.

State Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, who attended the event along with Wisconsin Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, noted that operating a grocery in a rural community can carry slim profit margins, but the need for establishments is pervasive.

“Every community I represent, when they are talking about ways to improve their communities and how to attract people, every community that doesn’t have a grocery store says, ‘We need a grocery store,’” Tranel said.

WEDC also awarded $250,000 to the City of Platteville on Wednesday for an $11.45 million mixed-use development downtown, known as the Pioneer Square Development project.