Steve Cahalan: Expansion, remodeling project begins at Blain’s Farm & Fleet | Business

Work on a major expansion and remodeling project that’s expected to be completed in early November began last week at the Blain’s Farm & Fleet store at 9438 State Road 16 in Onalaska.

The project includes a 6,500-square-foot warehouse space addition, a new store façade, a new two-lane drive-thru and interior remodeling, said Jane Blain Gilbertson, who is president, CEO and sole owner of the Janesville, Wis.-based retail chain. The company was founded in 1955 and has 43 Blain’s Farm & Fleet stores in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan.

The addition will increase the store’s merchandise capacity, Gilbertson told me after Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony. The new façade will be similar to that of the company’s newer stores and will be “basically kind of a nod to a farm building — it’s more of a barn front,” Gilbertson said.

“The big functional piece for customers that will really enhance their experience is the addition of an actual drive-thru,” Gilbertson said. “We have for years had the ability for people to drive up and pick up” merchandise. But with the new two-lane drive-thru, she said, “Customers will come around the back of our building and then there will be two drive-thru lanes with an overhang so they’re protected from the weather” while merchandise is loaded into their vehicle.

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The Onalaska store’s customers also will like the planned changes in how the store’s merchandise is arranged, Gilbertson predicted.

Because the project won’t be finished until the busy holiday shopping season is about to begin, a grand opening celebration will be held at the end of March, she said.

For more information, visit or the Onalaska store’s Facebook page.

Eddy Nix, who operates one of Wisconsin’s largest used bookstores, Driftless Books & Music, in a former tobacco warehouse in Viroqua, will open a second bookstore — Metaphysical Graffiti — on Friday at 119 W. Court St. in downtown Viroqua.

And Scott Klimek, who started his Bad Axe Music store last September in a room inside Driftless Books & Music, will open it Friday in its new, larger location in another part of the Court Street building. Klimek’s store specializes in selling used vinyl records and also sells new vinyl records, CDs and cassette tapes with all genres of music.

Both Court Street stores will hold a grand opening celebration Friday and Saturday, and area musician Lou Shields will perform from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday at Bad Axe Music. Joseph Huber with Pat Ferguson and Christian Staehly will perform from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday on Court Street as part of the Live in Viroqua free outdoor music series.

Store hours at both downtown businesses tentatively will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed Monday.

Driftless Books & Music at 518 Walnut St. has somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million used books, Nix estimates. It also sells some new books by Wisconsin authors, as well as vinyl records, CDs and sheet music. Nix started the business in Viola in 2004 and moved it to Viroqua in 2009.

“There are so many books in this (former tobacco warehouse) building,” Nix said of his decision to open a second bookstore. “And we wanted to allow people to see some of the nicer collections. The new store will focus on Wisconsin history; metaphysics; homesteading, everything from permaculture to how to raise goats; and different political books. So it will be a little more focused” than his original store.

For more information about Nix’s new store, visit its Facebook page.

Klimek said Bad Axe Music will have much more space in its new location — about 800 square feet of space, up from 256 square feet at its first spot. That will allow him to carry more merchandise. For more information about Bad Axe Music, call 805-709-2832 or visit its Facebook page.

Billed as La Crosse County’s first new veterinary hospital in 30 years, Onalaska Animal Hospital will open Tuesday at 984 12th Ave. S. in Onalaska.

The new business is owned by Nicole Azene, doctor of veterinary medicine, and her husband, Dr. Ezana Azene, an interventional radiologist at Gundersen Health System. The facility was built on a vacant lot across from Misty’s Dance Unlimited.

It’s a full-service veterinary hospital with services such as vaccinations, dental care, radiology and surgery and has an in-house lab and pharmacy services.

Nicole Azene is a Fear-Free Certified Professional who treats pets’ emotional and physical well-being simultaneously. The new 5,000-square-foot facility was designed to her specifications to maximize comfort and healing for pets and their owners and has distinct waiting rooms, exam rooms and hospital wards to separate cats and dogs, as well as background music and scents/pheromones intended to calm pets. The heating and air conditioning system is zoned to mitigate sounds such as barking, and keep odors in the source room or moving them toward the rear until cleaning occurs.

The animal hospital also has a comfort room where pet owners can spend time with their pet while dealing with heart-wrenching situations.

“My vision was to build a hospital with state-of-the-art technology to allow best medical practices and combine it with the compassionate care that fosters optimal healing,” Azene said.

Two additional veterinarians, Dr. Steve Timm and Dr. Rita Miller, serve as referring specialists. Michelle Hemp is the practice’s manager. For more information, call 608-668-6777 or visit or Facebook.

Steve Cahalan can be reached at

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