When I pulled into the parking lot of the new Blain's Farm & Fleet in Verona, not only did the LED welcome sign give me pause, so did the sprawling 114,500-square-foot building. Looks like the Midwestern farm store chain (it has 30-plus stores in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa) has evolved.
Environmentally, it has. According to company representative Renee Tarnutzer, the Verona location is a green-concept store with daylight-harvesting skylights and 16-foot ceiling fans that control temperatures year-round.
Farm & Fleet has spruced up the rough-hewn appearance typical of its other stores to compete with the big boxes, yet its durable brands of clothes, outdoor maintenance equipment and agricultural necessities remain.
The large store's layout sells itself. Gone are the cramped aisles that made it easy to overlook products. Instead, wider aisles and open space encourage browsing. Sweatshirts can be faced out, and shoe aisles accommodate both carts and shoppers.
I took my time, poking my head in all the departments, from automotive to sporting goods to agricultural hardware. With bright lights and roomy shelves, I found Farm Innovators Pond De-icer ($39), the Waring Pro Wine Chiller ($100) and the camouflage Wahl Outdoor Rechargeable Beard Trimmer ($20) for hunters. I especially liked the brown John Deere "Makin' big ol' trucks since 1877" hoodie ($30). And this is still the place to go for Dickeys, Carhartt and CAT - work clothes that make the leap to hip.
Farm & Fleet Verona is both for business and pleasure. While there, I saw families and couples stroll the store together, which exemplifies the Farm & Fleet local community spirit. Despite its gleam, you actually will still find the same good ol' farm store.
Although the store opened to the public Aug. 14, the official grand opening Sept. 25-27 will be an extravaganza with gift card giveaways and appearances by local celebrities like UW athletic director Barry Alvarez and former Packers president Bob Harlan.
Blain's Farm & Fleet
600 Hometown Circle, Verona; 608-848-4968; www.farmandfleet.com; 8:30 am-9 pm Mon.-Fri., 8:30 am-8 pm Sat., 9 am-6 pm Sun.