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The exterior of the former grocery store in New London. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Big Store auction off, but buyer could be hooked

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON -- The scheduled auction of a New London grocery store was cancelled about a half-hour after it was set to begin Tuesday morning.

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There were no "qualified buyers" present at the foreclosure sale of the Big Store, said Oren Klein, from Tranzon Integrated Property Group, who had come all the way from New Jersey to conduct the sale of the store.

A qualified buyer needed to have a $5,000 certified check in order to bid during the auction, Klein said.

Although there were about 30 people milling around the dark, vacant store at the 11 a.m. auction time, they were mostly community people who were curious to see if a buyer would come forward.

During brief comments to the crowd, Klein said the auction was being cancelled because "there hasn't been a ton of interest."

But he said there had been at least one serious offer made on Tuesday to purchase the building.

Prior to making that statement, Klein could be seen talking to different people in a quiet huddle in what had been the cereal aisle of the grocery store.

With a file full of papers on display, it appeared then that numbers were being discussed.

In a later interview, Klein said he was very confident a deal would be made to sell one of New London's most prominent Main Street buildings, whose closure in April of 2009 has cut deep into the town of about 1,000 residents.

"I think something's going to happen here," said Klein, who was unable to say if the potential buyer intended to reopen the grocery store or some other business in the building.

He said the transaction would result in a business that "would enhance the town."

After the auction was cancelled, interested buyers were told to meet with Ronnie Baeth, from New London Real Estate.

In an interview Tuesday night, Baeth said he met with two potential buyers who could possibly share the 18,500-square- foot space. One of the interested parties is a grocer who would utilize the larger section. The other business could be located in the 3,500-square-foot lower level. Negotiations are expected to continue this week.

"My goal here is to get a grocery store for this town," Baeth said.

A young woman, who declined to be identified, was at the auction with her two young children to see if the building would be sold and a grocery store reopened. She said she's tired of buckling her kids into the car to drive to neighboring towns for groceries. She wants to be able to walk down the block to the grocery store with her kids.

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