By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Before moving to Browerville in 2006, Robert and Linda McDowell learned a lot about the food service industry while living in Wisconsin. Among other things, they were wholesale distributors of homemade jams and jellies. Robert worked in construction, and with the industry downturn he came to a crossroads.
“We had thought about opening a bulk food market,” he said.
Then he and his family came to this area through a church outreach for Living Waters Mennonite Church.
“You can go almost anywhere and start a bulk food market,” said Robert. “We have stuff here people can’t get anywhere else close to them, and prices are better.”
To the McDowells, buying in bulk just makes sense; it’s a money-saving way to live.
The McDowells spent some time trying to find a suitable place for the market. The building they now own was just the kind of location they were looking for, but when they asked the first couple of times about buying it, someone else was interested.
Customers come to Cherry Grove Market from Wadena, Alexandria, Little Falls, Rice, Motley and the Twin Cities. Customers from Germany and Norway have also found their way to the market.
“During the summer we had a fair amount of tourist traffic,” Robert said. “We are thankful and blessed for the way it’s going.”
Cherry Grove is continually adding new things to the selection. “People have been impressed by the selection of spices we offer,” said Robert. “The bulk idea is a new idea for many people. They are getting used to buying a 50-pound bag of flour.”
People have told the McDowell family how nice and bright the market is, and how open with more room in the aisles. “People tell us we have filled a niche.”
Food items and ingredients arrive at the market in bulk and much of it is divided up into smaller bags for sale. But several items are offered directly in the 50-pound bags, such as flour and sugar. Frozen vegetables and meats are also offered.
The McDowells make their own jams and jellies. They also bake pies fresh in the mornings in the kitchen that occupies one side of the building. Local honey and maple syrup are offered, as well as many gift items handcrafted locally.
The line of organic and gluten-free products is increasing. Robert anticipates needing a bigger warehouse, although not for a while yet.
Paul and Velma Anderson from Alexandria were referred to the market by a friend, who told Velma she could get coconut oil there at a better price. “It’s a very unique store,” Paul said.
Shelly Tostenson of Long Prairie is at the market every week. “I love this store; I’m glad it’s here,” Tostenson said. “The food is so fresh — this pie is still warm; it’s awesome.”
The market, located on the south side of Browerville next to the Lakewood Health System clinic, is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., closing an hour earlier on Wednesdays.