Lanesboro grocery cooperative planned
LANESBORO —Lanesboro residents in need of a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk often end up driving to a grocery store in a neighboring community.
Lanesboro's sole grocery store, Village Foods, closed in December 2008. Now, a group of local residents are working to bring a grocery store back to town.
"Almost every grocer or construction person we’ve talked to has looked at the current building and has concluded that we’re better off building in a different location or demolishing what’s there," Lanesboro resident Rick Lamon said.
In February 2010, a group of residents, including Lamon, Julia Benson, Richard Horihan and Ed Taylor, formed Lanesboro Grocery LLC.
"Initially, we were just trying to bring a grocer into town, and we were close a couple times, but it never happened," Lamon said.
Since then, local residents Therese Graner and Larry Johnson have also joined the group.
After months of meetings, they decided a grocery store was still feasible in Lanesboro, so they bought the former grocery store on Coffee Street. With the help of local investors, they hope to raise $750,000 to demolish, build and furnish a new store on the same site.
"Our intention is to not borrow any money, so we don’t have to worry about loan payments and accumulating interest," Taylor said. "That just makes it harder to get a project going."
They hope to find 100 people willing to invest $5,000 each, Taylor said. They’re also willing to take smaller investments.
"We need to get as many people in the community invested in this as we can, otherwise we aren’t going to make it," Taylor said.
If they’re able to come up with the money, they will go ahead with plans and begin to demolish the three buildings that now sit on the property. If the group doesn’t come up with the money by Oct. 31, they’ll sell the building and return the money to the investors.
"It’s important that people understand that the money they give us is not a gift or donation," Lamon said. "The money they give us buys them a unit and they become an owner of the grocery store."
So far 40 people have committed $5,000 each in only four weeks.
"We’re pretty pleased," Lamon said. "It’s really exciting for us when people come to us wanting to be a part of it."
Many people have asked the group who will run the store once it’s built. Lamon said there are several possible scenarios.
"We’re not giving up on the possibility that someone might take ownership of the store," Lamon said. "What we’re really trying to do is create an opportunity."
He said it’s also possible that there’s someone in the community who is not in the position to buy the store, but is interested in running it.
"If that’s the case, we could lease the building," Lamon said.
He said it’s also possible the members of Lanesboro Grocery would own the store and inventory, but hire someone to manage the store.
The limited liability corporation now has six board members, but they plan to add three more positions. Anyone who invests $100,000 will get a seat. The board will hold annual elections and annual meetings.
"One person gets one vote, so the vote of a person who contributes $1,000 is equal to a person who has contributed $10,000," Taylor said.
They believe those who have invested in the store will be more likely to shop there. The group has stressed that Lanesboro residents aren’t the only people invited to invest.
"We receive a lot of visitors from other areas, and this is an opportunity for them to be a part of this community," Graner said. "A grocery store adds tremendous vitality to a downtown, and we really need that."
Lanesboro’s surge in population each summer and fall will also help make the grocery store successful, she said. In the past month, the group has been meeting with members of the lodging and retail community as well as interested residents. Two public information sessions regarding the investment opportunity will be held April 14.
"The purchase of the building has gotten people excited," Lamon said. "We don’t want to leave anyone out. We want everyone to be a part of this."