Washburn has Illinois' only community-owned
grocery store, thanks an energized village and the former Alpha
Community Bank. The story has attracted national attention from
the AP wire services and national media. Operating since fall
of 2000, the project is keeping Main Street a-buzz in a town where
people pull together to make things happen.
Tim Schoon, president of the
Washburn branch of the $125 million bank based in Toluca, Ill.,
rallied the community around the effort to preserve the town's
store. Tim organized a committee to find ways to keep the store
open, and the group came up with the idea of selling stock to
buy the store outright. Nearly 100 people turned out at a meeting
in support of the proposal.
Association members went door-to-door
within a 15-mile radius of Washburn, soliciting people to buy
shares at $50 each. Nearly 500 investors bought shares, raising
more than $100,000. The money, along with grants and low-interest
loans, was used to buy, remodel, and restock the store. Investors
didn’t stop at raising money. Volunteers also cleaned floors
and walls, replaced light fixtures, repaired equipment, painted,
and rearranged the floor plan of the store.
Now inside, the aroma of homemade
rolls, breads, cakes, and pies, from the made-from-scratch bakery
leased by local Mennonites, greets shoppers as they enter the
store. You'll see an expanded produce department, a fresh meat
case, a deli, a full selection of grocery items.