- People in some areas of Wisconsin may take easy access to groceries for granted. People in Florence don't.
Last year, the USDA considered the Florence area a "food desert". There was no grocery store in all of Florence County, and it had been that way for seven years.
That's all changed. Pat's Foods has now been open for a year in town.
A vacant space in Florence looked like a slab of concrete with a roof a year ago. Now, Pat's Foods stays busy every day at the location. The full service grocery store supplies food and fresh produce, meats, and dairy. That convenience means people are shopping steadily at Pat's, and business is good.
"Before, people were shopping every week, every couple weeks, month to month into Iron Mountain," said store manager Tim White. "When you've got fresh produce, you can come in here any day. You can get something, and you don't have to hold it in your fridge for two weeks."
White has opened stores in places like Madison and Cleveland. But the enthusiasm in Florence seems different to him.
"I've opened four or five stores," he said. "People have been so positive about this store being open, more than any store I've ever opened."
Pat's Foods often seems busy, which means it likely has staying power.
"Sometimes you get into these smaller markets, and people are afraid to put inventory in the store. We're not afraid. We like buying product, and it drives our pricing down better," White said.
The grocery store also includes an Ace Hardware within the store.