Becker Market scheduled to open for the season Thursday
WILLMAR -- As Becker Market is set to open for the season, the Community-Owned Grocery will also kick off a membership drive to help create the year-round downtown cooperative marketplace.
This year will mark the fifth year for the outdoor Becker Market. Beverly Dougherty, project coordinator, said the market will have some exciting additions that will continue to make Thursday nights in downtown Willmar a place for the community to gather.
"Community members come and have conversations while listening to the entertainment," Dougherty said. "People want to have a community and go somewhere and see people they know and talk with them."
Dougherty said about 25 vendors will be on hand this Thursday at the market between Fourth and Fifth Streets on Becker Avenue, and about five additional vegetable vendors will be added into the mix later into the season. She said the market has seen a growth in vendor applications sine its inaugural season.
While vendors show off their goods and the Becker Market Café sells food and beverages to help raise money for the market, Dougherty said the Willmar Design Center and the Community-Owned Grocery will be supplying information to market-goers about becoming members of the growing new grocery store.
Dougherty said the planned grocery, now a separate entity from the Willmar Design Center, currently has 40 founding members and is hoping to reach a goal of 300 to 400 members by the end of the summer.
To become a member, individuals have to pay a one-time fee of $200 which guarantees them one vote and the ability to help make decisions that will affect the sale of locally grown and produced goods year-round.
"It's a place where you will be able to buy food that doesn't have chemical additives and a place that will be a full-service grocery," Dougherty said. "The vendors want a place to sell and the people want to buy fresh local food. It's a great combination and it creates a wonderful micro-economy for the region."
The Willmar Community-Owned Grocery is looking at leasing the 6,000-square-foot main floor of the Erickson building at 313 Litchfield Ave. S.W. Dougherty said they are waiting for the parent company of the property owner to sign a letter of intent before moving forward with the $1.5 million undertaking.
After over a year of planning so far, the grocery has a logo and motto it recently came out with noting that it is "Food with Local Roots."
Dougherty said if everything goes according to plan, the grocery will also include a deli, coffee shop and bakery. She hopes the year-round grocery will be operational by fall 2012.
As the Becker Market is set to get rolling on Thursday, Dougherty said 200 free tomato plants will be given away and a new children's booth will be incorporated into the weekly downtown festivities.
The market will also be offering a new form of currency to help make exchanges easier.
Dougherty said "Becker Bucks" can be purchased by using a credit card, debit card, or EBT card at the information booth when customers first arrive. The customers then will give vendors the new currency just like cash, which the vendors will redeem at the end of the day. Becker Bucks, if not spent, can be returned for the cash value.
Dougherty said national statistics show that consumer sales increase 25 percent the first year businesses incorporate credit card machines, which will provide for a "unique opportunity" for the market this year, she said.
"We're just looking forward to being able to provide more events," Dougherty said. "We are glad so many enjoy the market and come together as a community."