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Willmar Community-Owned Grocery announces choice of site on E. Highway 12

WILLMAR — The Willmar Community-Owned Grocery announced its choice Tuesday of 1600 E. Highway 12 as the future home of the locally owned food cooperative.

Close to 50 people were on hand for the official announcement and signing of the lease, which was greeted with a round of applause.

“It’s a really important day,” said COG board member Mary Catherwood. “We know where we’re going to be. We know where our home is.”

The location, at the corner of Highway 12 and Lakeland Drive, is owned by Westside Liquor. The building is shared by the wine and liquor store and Westside's other tenant, Mr. B Chocolatier.

A committee evaluated at least a dozen sites before recommending the Westside Liquor building, said Russ Bennett, president of the COG board of directors.

“This one rose right to the top,” he said.

The community-owned grocery is leasing just under 4,000 square feet on the south end of the building. Renovation will start this summer, and the board hopes to have the doors opened early in 2015.

In the meantime, member recruitment and a capital campaign will be key priorities, Bennett said.

The cooperative currently has 560 members; the goal is to have 1,000 by the time the store opens, he said. “We’re really, really looking forward to more of our community investing in the co-op.”

Efforts have been underway for more than four years to launch a community-owned full-service grocery store in Willmar with a focus on locally grown food.

Organizers see it as a grassroots way of increasing access to fresh, quality food, promoting new markets and new opportunities for local food producers, and supporting sustainable agriculture.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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