New Bushwhacker open; Junction City eyes expansion

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When Rich Pestien had to make a decision what to do with his Bushwhacker store, an opportunity opened he wasn’t expecting. And with the outdoor equipment and bicycle store just in its third week at Junction City Shopping Center, he can tell he made the right decision.

“This site became available at the end of July last year. That made everything really tight because I knew I’d have to be in here by May 1. We made it. It wasn’t easy, but we made it,” Pestien said.

The store actually isn’t 100 percent completed yet, as some signage still must be added as well as landscaping. On the interior, boxes are still being emptied, shelving put together and filled and other goods being put in their proper place. But, Pestien said, Bushwhacker is open at Junction City after 29 years at Metro Centre on North University Street.

“Metro Centre was very good for us. I mean, we went from having less than nothing to being a successful, well-known store while we were there. But we just ran out of room there. We needed more space and we needed better space. It needed extensive remodeling to become the kind of store we needed it to be in order for us to keep improving sales. When our lease was up at the end of April, I knew I needed either to commit to that situation, find another place or retire and sell the store. I wasn’t ready for that, so I started looking,” he said.

He looked at several locations before reaching a deal with Junction Ventures and because of the tight time frame he wasn’t sure it would be finished on time. But his general contractor, Jeff Craft, told him he could do it with a steel building with no basement.

Construction began in earnest in November but was hampered by a rainy December and snow late in the winter. “Neither of those things were good for business or for construction, but Jeff was outstanding. He told me he’d get it done and he did,” Pestien said.

The location at Junction City, right next to the Pimiteoui Trail and bridge over Knoxville Avenue and across the street from Donovan Park, “was certainly the best of the possible choices. It gives us a lot of visibility. I expect it will be a really good fit,” he said. “I’m excited to have the store here. And having a brand new store is exciting, too.”

The new Bushwhacker has 15,000 square feet, nearly 50 percent larger than the store at Metro Centre, and the main show room is one large room with high ceilings. “It gives more of an open-air feeling, which is what I was going for,” he said.

Another person who believes having Bushwhacker next to the bike/running trail is ideal is Alexis Khazzam, president of Junction Ventures. “We’re thrilled we were able to make the deal to get them here. With the bridge and park right across the street, it’s a perfect fit for that kind of store. Peoria getting on or coming off the bridge have a place to stop if they need equipment or bikes repaired or even just to relax,” he said.

“Ever since we bought Junction City we’ve been working to create an atmosphere that would be attractive for families, a place they can go to and enjoy walking around and shopping or having dinner or drinks. And we love to attract sportsy, fit family types to Junction City. We’re not interested in fast food or a gas station. We want to be unique,” he said.

Bushwhacker is one of several things going on at Junction City these days. New tenants coming soon include Prekshot Pharmacy, into the space where 309 restaurant once was located; Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co. is putting a second store near The Bronze Frog, and Fin 13 Sushi Bar and Grill will open next to Ce-Ces in July.

Also, construction has started on a new strip that will house seven retail operations. Expected to be completed by July 1, it will house a Chad Duke Hair Design salon and a couple restaurants, including a Mexican restaurant called Hacienda el Mirador, which Khazzam said has outstanding food.

All the spaces, he said, have already been leased but he isn’t able yet to name the other tenants.

That new strip is being built on the shopping center’s east side, where at one time there were plans for a retirement home.

While that didn’t happen, Khazzam said he selling the site where America Pi once stood to a company that will build an assisted living center. He said he was unable to identify the buyer yet but said demolition of the former American Pi will begin in a few weeks.

“Things are happening and we’re very excited about it. We’ll have more exciting news to tell soon,” Khazzam said,

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).