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New London grocery store takes another step forward in reopening

NEW LONDON -- Community leadership and a desire to keep Main Street alive has apparently prompted a local resident to purchase the Big Store building in New London.

Ron Baeth, from New London Real Estate, said Monday that Keith Olson is purchasing the building, with final closing expected in a week or two.

"It's all going forward," Baeth said.

Negotiations are also underway with an existing grocery store owner located in western Minnesota to purchase and occupy the upper level of the 18,500-square-foot building.

The building would be surveyed and split into different spaces so the lower level can house other businesses.

"We're trying to figure out if the grocery man will commit to coming here," said Baeth, who declined to identify that potential buyer.

Baeth said Olson purchased the building because he "wants a grocery store here as bad as anybody else" and wants to keep the stores on Main Street open and vibrant.

Olson could not be reached for comment.

Olson isn't alone in his community efforts to get a grocery store in town.

Baety said several New London merchants have suggested that "food certificates" be sold that would provide a potential grocer with up-front capital to help remodel the store. The certificates would then be redeemed at face value by making food purchases at the grocery store when it opened.

If $10,000 to $20,000 is raised it would show a prospective grocer "what the community is willing to do" to help them succeed, said Baeth, and demonstrate that residents would support a store in town.

"I think that would be welcome by any buyer," said Baeth, adding that so far know one's agreed to organize the food certificate project.

Even though the former grocery store, called the Big Store, closed in April of 2009, Baeth said a loyal customer base is still here and they still want a grocery store in New London.

Another group of people are also offering to pitch in and provide volunteer labor to help remodel the store, he said.

This is all proof that New London is a "strong" community, said Baeth. "It's pretty satisfying."

Meanwhile, down the block from the Big Store, the hardware store could also be re-opening soon. Baeth said there's a "promising" deal in the works with a potential out-of-town buyer for that building - which closed abruptly last September with a store full of merchandise.

He said the turn-key business could have a new owner in a couple of weeks.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750