Food pantry, Elite Performance to move into shuttered Alco store

GIBSON CITY — Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services has purchased the long-shuttered Alco store on Gibson City’s east side and plans to relocate its local Elite Performance facility to the site, along with the Gibson Area Food Pantry.

Rob Schmitt, chief executive officer of Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services, said the purchase of the store occurred several months ago.

The plan, Schmitt said, is to move the food pantry to the new location at 619 E. First St. later this fall, and then move Elite Performance of Gibson City into it next spring or summer.

Since February 2015, the food pantry has been operated out of the GAHHS storage building across from Gibson Area Hospital. Local churches operate the food pantry, while the hospital provides the space, Schmitt said.

“There was a study done in Ford County, I think by the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, that showed a food shortage in the Gibson area, particularly with the senior population,” Schmitt said about how the food pantry came about.

Schmitt said the reason the food pantry is being relocated is simple: “So we get our storage space back.”

“The food pantry takes up about half the building now,” Schmitt said. “We provide the space, and we love that they’re here, but we need the storage space back.”

The food pantry will be housed in a 3,000-square-foot section of the 26,000-square-foot former Alco store, while the other 23,000 square feet will be remodeled to accommodate Elite Performance of Gibson City.

For the past three years, Elite Performance of Gibson City has been operated out of a 7,000-square-foot space next to County Market. Prior to that, the fitness and wellness program was operated out of the basement of the GAHHS orthopedic clinic at 10 Doctors Park.

“The new space is 23,000 square feet, so it’ll be triple in size,” Schmitt said. “It’s going to be a very nice facility.”

The Elite Performance space next to County Market is not adequate to accommodate the many people who use it, Schmitt noted.

“Elite’s just been a successful program overall, because it’s really for all ages,” Schmitt said. “It’s not just the kids or athletes — people of all ages can go to Elite. I go to Elite myself.

“Elite focuses not just on athletes making them better, performance-wise, but helping improve the health and wellness of people in general. And so it gets pretty crowded in there when you’ve got 20, 30 or 40 people working out.

“The new space will allow us to have just a lot more room and accommodate different kinds of exercises and wellness programs. It’s really going to be a great facility; we’re pretty excited about it.”

The Elite Performance program has locations in Gibson City, Paxton, Cissna Park and Fairbury. Schmitt said plans are also in the works to relocate and expand the Paxton facility in early 2018.

Last month GAHHS announced that its Elite Performance facility in Paxton will be moving into the old Sorensen factory on U.S. 45 on the city’s north side. The 15,000-square-foot facility will replace the current Elite Performance facility on Taft Street. Completion is estimated to be in January 2018. 

“And we actually need more space in Fairbury, too, so that’s probably coming down the road,” Schmitt said.

Elite Performance specializes in strength and conditioning programs that are specifically designed to address a person’s individual goals. Strength and conditioning experts perform an initial physical assessment on each participant to identify any weaknesses or areas that need improvement. An individualized plan is developed based on the participant’s initial interview, goals and physical assessment.  After completing all Elite Performance sessions, each participant is reassessed and receives pre- and post-test results. The program also provides access to sports medicine resources, such as physical therapy, orthopedic care and athletic training. 

The Alco discount store in Gibson City closed in November 2014, along with all 197 other Alco stores in the U.S. The store had been in operation for at least 20 years in Gibson City.

Based in Coppell, Texas, Alco Stores Inc. filed for bankruptcy in October 2014, joining the list of smaller U.S. retailers seeking protection from creditors. The 113-year company, blaming a “lingering economic slowdown” for its predicament, said it hoped to sell better-performing stores while liquidating the rest.

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