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Group pushing for shoppers to buy local this holiday season

WILLMAR -- The phrase "buy local" is becoming commonly associated with food, but Minnesota 2020, a think tank headed by former state representative Matt Entenza, wants folks to buy local when purchasing all types of Christmas presents this year.

If Minnesotans bought 25 percent of their gifts from local manufacturers and retailers, the impact would be huge, Entenza said Tuesday at a promotional stop at Mr. Bs Chocolatier shop in Willmar. "That's $2 billion into the Minnesota economy that would go elsewhere," he said. Now, state residents spend less than 5 percent of their holiday dollars on local products.

If a shopper spends their dollar at a big box store, 43 cents stays in the community, Entenza's group says. If that same dollar is spent at a locally owned store, 68 cents stays local.

Both before and after Thanksgiving, Entenza and representatives of Minnesota 2020 are traveling the state drawing attention to the group's second annual gift guide. The guide, available at, highlights a wide range of Minnesota-made products.

One of those products is the chocolates produced in Willmar by Mr. B's. Co-owner Danielle George says the holiday season has had a slow start, but is picking up. The shop, which is located along First Street just south of Cub Foods, is also carrying House of Jacobs lefse, which is bringing in a whole new clientele to the shop.

George and her husband Ian bought the shop from her grandfather, Dwight Barnes, last year. And, while Mr. B. had the support of two businesses, photography and chocolate, the new owners rely only on chocolate.

"Now, it's just chocolate," George said, as she arranged chocolate turkeys made of one and one-half pounds of the good stuff. "So, we need local support."

Another mainstay of local business, Ken's Casual's, was welcoming sporadic waves of customers on Friday morning. Co-owner Jan Scheltens was anticipating a good holiday season. "We are ready," she said. "The store looks good and we have a really good selection."

It's not the news reports that are telling families what to spend this holiday season, she added. Rather, it's their own family budget that sets the spending limits.

The store, now in its 33rd year, is appreciative of its supportive customers. "Our customers are concerned about the businesses they shop at. They want them to grow and thrive," she said. "I think its going to be a good season."