The small "for sale" sign that popped up in the past couple of weeks on the vacant lot at 905 S. 27th St. probably confirmed what many people already suspected.
Ideal Grocery is not coming back.
Not at its former home near 27th and Randolph streets, and not anywhere else in Lincoln.
Co-owner Chad Winters confirmed Monday that there are no plans to rebuild the store, which burned down two years ago after serving Lincoln for nearly a century.
Winters said he and his partners considered rebuilding at the original location, or a site near downtown or in southeast Lincoln.
But they couldn't make any of the sites work, for various reasons.
"I wish we could have (rebuilt)," Winters said. "We obviously bought that store with the intention of keeping it open for another 30 years or more."
But a faulty compressor threw a wrench in that plan, starting a fire on the morning of May 19, 2016, that left the building a total loss. It was later torn down.
Winters said a number of reasons went into the decision not to rebuild the store, which he and his partners bought in 2012.
One of the most prominent was a marketing analysis done by a Minneapolis firm that showed the site was too close to another store they own: Leon's Gourmet Grocer, which is only about two miles away. The analysis also showed traffic flow in that area is not conducive to having a grocery store on the site.
Winters said he also was hamstrung by city regulations that called for much more parking for a rebuilt store than the original one had, which he said would have meant that a new store would have only been about half as big as the 17,000-square-foot structure that burned down.
"I didn't want to put a convenience store there," he said.
Rebuilding elsewhere was an option, and Winters said he looked long and hard at a site just east of downtown, near the Telegraph District.
He said he thought a store would have worked there, but the real estate was cost-prohibitive, with a price tag of $1.5 million.
"We could just never get the numbers to work, even with (tax-increment) financing," Winters said.
He and his partners also considered building a new store in the Village Gardens development at 56th Street and Pine Lake Road, but then Costco announced plans for a store about three miles away, and they decided that wouldn't work.
Winters said the plan now is to concentrate on selling the Ideal site — for which he's asking $600,000 for just over an acre of land.
At some point in the future, Leon's, which is at 2200 Winthrop Road, will get a remodel.
As for the end of Ideal, Winters said it's a "tough deal."
"I wish I could turn back the hands of time."
Emerson Trupp, a longtime resident of the area who also worked at Ideal for nearly a decade, said he had already heard the news that the store wouldn't be coming back, but he knows many people were holding out hope.
"It's a big loss to the neighborhood," Trupp said.