WILLMAR - Before his death in a plane crash on Feb. 4, 2015, William "Bill" Graves had recently celebrated the opening of his 100th Domino's franchise. It was an amazing accomplishment from someone who first started as a Domino's driver before opening his very first franchise in 1985. That first store was located in Apple Tree Square in east Willmar.
On Monday, Bill Graves' family and friends, along with dozens of community leaders, business owners and fellow Domino's franchisees and employees, celebrated Graves' memory and legacy with the grand opening of the new Domino's in Legacy Commons, located at 602 First St. S. in Willmar.
"You are all here because you touched this project in some way, shape or form," said Blake Graves, the son of Bill Graves.
This isn't a typical Domino's. It is known as the Legacy store and will be the only one of its kind.
"To see this Legacy Domino's store, it blew me away," said Scott Hinshaw, executive vice president of franchise operations and development with Domino's. "There is no other Domino's pizza store on this planet that looks like this special legacy store."
The centerpiece of the new store, amongst the gleaming kitchen, wood accents and in-store seating, is the legacy wall, which tells the story of Bill Graves with words and pictures.
"To put this store here in Willmar only seemed fitting," said Blake Graves. The family used to live in Willmar, before moving to Texas in 2013. "Our heart is still here."
All six of the Graves children, as well as their mother Sue Graves, were on hand Monday morning to cut the ribbon on the new store.
"We can't say thank you enough. You have upheld us, supported us, loved us well," said Sue Graves, Bill Graves' widow.
Blake Graves thanked his mother especially for all the work she has put in over the past four years, including learning the family business and taking over the restaurants left behind when her husband died.
"You truly stepped up. You have done so much for our family and you have done tons for this community," Blake Graves said.
He was extremely grateful for the support she gave him as he tackled this project.
"I had a vision for right here and you believed in me," Blake Graves said.
Also helping make the dream a reality was Marcus Construction, who built Legacy Commons.
"It was their vision. We just helped put it together," said Jim Bach, of Marcus Construction.
The Legacy Commons project is Blake Graves' first independent development. The completed project was the realization of a dream of the Graves family to move their Willmar Domino's to First Street, the main commercial street.
"It has been a long time in the making," Blake Graves said.
The hope of the Graves family is that the Legacy Commons project will spur more development along First Street. There is still space available in the Legacy Commons building, along with other retail space up and down the First Street corridor.
With the opening of the Legacy store, Blake Graves and Sue Graves hope the memory of Bill Graves continues to live on in Willmar.
"We hope you are honored you get to call the Legacy store your store. We couldn't have done this without all of you," Blake Graves said. "From the bottom of our hearts, we are sincerely grateful for everyone here."