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Woodland Foods in Carlton to keep its doors open - for now

It looks as though Woodland Foods in Carlton is in survival mode right now, though according to owner Darlene Meger, the store will not close its doors at the end of the month as some local residents had feared.

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Woodland Foods employee Liz Christenson clears the sidewalk in front of the store in Carlton Wednesday morning. Christenson, who has worked at the grocery since it opened in November 1995, hopes a buyer can be found. Lisa Baumann/lbaumann@pinejournal.com
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It looks as though Woodland Foods in Carlton is in survival mode right now, though according to owner Darlene Meger, the store will not close its doors at the end of the month as some local residents had feared.

"I've been advised that I should keep my doors open and my shelves filled if I want to find a buyer," Meger admitted frankly.

That move represents a step of faith on Meger's behalf, however. The grocery store has fallen on tough times in recent years, not unlike many other small, locally owned grocery stores of its kind.

"We have a tough time competing with the large stores such as Walmart and Super One," said Meger. "People use our store as a convenience store but go to the big stores to buy their staples."

Meger took over ownership of Woodland Foods from her son, Richard, nine years ago following his untimely death. At the time the store first opened its doors in 1995, it was the only grocery store in Carlton and remains so yet today.

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During that time, though the community has embraced it, Meger said the store has faced an uphill battle. A contract with the Moose Lake sex offender's facility that yielded $116,000 in annual revenue for the store went to another provider a few years ago, which Meger said significantly reduced Woodland Foods' annual revenue.

"I need to bring in at least $2,500 a day to make ends meet," admitted Meger, "and lately that hasn't been happening."

She said "the straw that really broke the camel's back" for the store was the recent road construction along Highway 45 over the late summer season, which slowed clientele in the grocery store to a snail's pace.

While Meger has made no secret of the fact the store is for sale, she said she will have to see an upswing in business to continue to keep it open and running until a qualified buyer comes along.

"As gas prices continue to go higher, people aren't as likely to jump in their cars and drive any distance," said Meger, "so that has helped us out somewhat recently."

Woodland Foods has 18 employees and remains open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. - seven days a week.

"It's a little like having kids!" exclaimed Meger.

At least one faithful patron of the store wants to see it stay open.

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"Living without a grocery store will be a huge bummer for Carltonians," said Carlton resident Kim Matteen. "We've done it before and we didn't like it. Let's hope someone will buy the store from Mrs. Meger and we can continue to patronize the little store that we love."

Related Topics: CARLTONFOOD
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