New to Willmar


Posted by womanabouttown | Posted in Church, Moving, Restaurants, Willmar | Posted on 02-02-2012

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I am new to Willmar, MN, having moved here 11 months ago from the Twin Cities, which is two hours east. I moved here to live with my new husband. It was an easy decision for us to live here in Willmar rather than the Cities. After all, he has deep roots here and had bought his family farm a couple years prior. So now, I am a farmer, or at least a farmer’s wife aspiring to be helpful at the farm.

My husband grew up here and has interesting anecdotes about Willmar’s history , or observations on ways that the area has changed, even if it’s simple comments like “The Barn Theater used to be right over there” as we make our way through SW Willmar.  It seems commonplace for Minnesotans to spend their whole childhood in one place, but it’s rather foreign to me. I grew up mostly in California and Utah. I moved to a Minneapolis suburb two weeks before my senior year of high school. Say it with me: “Yikes.” But that was 24 years ago.  

I‘m a little envious of those of you who were never uprooted during your youth. You have  grown up alongside your compatriots – from kindergarten to high school graduation –  and now have life-long friends. Your development seems a little more seamless this way, as the energy spent on presenting yourself is much less when you can simply continue as is, compared to being plopped into a whole new environment and suddenly feeling like you’re on display and must prove yourself. As a young newcomer, you may want to continue from where you left off in your former location, hit the ground running, but you can’t – you have to start all over again.  And sometimes that’s good – you can re-invent yourself, try things you wouldn’t necessarily consider in your old stomping grounds. Another advantage of moving is that it’s an adventure. Plus, you can compare differences and similarities between people of different regions, which widens your perspective. However, when you’re a teenager, you sometimes don’t want to be the “new girl” since you’re already supremely self-conscious. You want to blend in with your peers.  

Fast-forward to now: Moving to a new place as an adult is a whole different thing. For one thing, you’re not suddenly thrust into a big building with 1,000 strangers, akin to high school. And moving is your own choice at this point. But beyond that, you’re not as self-conscious as an adult. You’re more comfortable in your own skin and you don’t feel so scrutinized. Plus, I only moved 2 hours away – big deal, right?  Moving from a big city to a small city/big town might sound like it would be an adjustment, but it’s really not.  I don’t need an exciting nightlife or great shopping in order to be happy. I would probably feel different if I was in my 20’s, or if I was single and looking for ways to meet guys. But I’m not. My husband and I are happy, and we’re content to stay home most evenings. But I am, of course, trying to get to know Willmar people.


Meeting People

Most of the people I have met in Willmar have been members of my new church, Calvary Lutheran. These people have been very welcoming. They are so thankful and gracious when I help out with church events or Sunday School. I really enjoy running into people I have met since moving here. And I am impressed with the many ways to get involved in the town, from volunteer opportunities and town meetings to entertainment venues. I want to take advantage of all that the area has to offer, and I believe that writing this blog will serve as an impetus to do so. I look forward to writing about my adventures.

My husband and I recently went to a town meeting on understanding the Somali community. We ran into several people we know. I felt so proud to be sitting amongst people who want to roll with the changes in Willmar and its increasing diversity. As one lady commented when she raised her hand “This is the best thing to happen to Willmar in 10 years.” Bravo to the leaders of the Somali community for setting up this meeting and addressing people’s questions and concerns. I hope there will be many more opportunities for learning and for open dialogue.

Out and About

Regarding getting out, my husband and I like to eat out on occasion (Who doesn’t?), and although Willmar could use a nice, independent restaurant, I have enjoyed what is here. I have discovered Willmar’s Erbert and Gerbert’s, a sandwich place that I never visited in Minneapolis. And we like eating at McKale’s in New London, and Blue Sky in Spicer. I have been meaning to go to the Garden of Eating in Grove City – perhaps I will visit and review the restaurant soon. Have you tried the monster cookies at Cashwise? Good Lord, they are fabulous. As far as arts and entertainment, we plan to see performances at WEAC (Willmar Education and Arts Center) and the Barn Theater. I am surprised how little those 2 venues advertise. It was actually a little difficult to find out information on WEAC events – It’s listed under West Central Concert Series, or

Of course, there are some annoying things that I have experienced since living here. Customer service isn’t always so great. Some local businesses and bureaucracies don’t return phone calls, even after I have left more than one message. Or they don’t have voicemail to begin with. These businesses apparently have all of the customers they can handle, or they don’t need return business. Grumble grumble. In person, however, just about everyone has been very friendly.

I predict more venting as well as cheering in future posts. Stay tuned.

Comments (19)

Great post! I am so excited to read more from your blog, especially since I’m new to Willmar, too. We can compare our initial impressions!

PS I am seeing a trip to Cashwise in my near future to try those fabulous cookies :) Thanks for the tip!

Thanks for your encouragement! Definitely try those cookies at Cashwise. Even the texture is great – soft and chewy.

OK, you’ve convinced me to try the cookies!

As someone who grew up here, I’ve noticed it’s easy to take things for granted and assume everyone knows their way around town… because, well, *we* do, and why wouldn’t everyone else? I’m really looking forward to reading more of your blog and seeing the community from a fresh perspective. Glad to have you here on Area Voices.

Thanks, Anne! Yes, I hope that even hometown Willmarites will benefit in some way from reading my blog. Thanks for your welcoming comments!

Welcome to Willmar.

Thank you!!

It’s interesting hearing your experience as a “newbie” to the area. I moved here from NY 8 years ago. Living in the Twin Cities was wonderful and not so much of a culture shock but moving to New London has been kinda tough. I’ve found it very hard to meet new friends and I suppose living on a farm without close neighbors doesn’t help much either. I’ve made a few friends through work and that helps a little. I’ve wanted to join something but we don’t have kids yet….hmmmm….ideas, ideas…..

My husband and I love McKale’s, have you had their pie? Oh momma, is that ever good!

Thanks for your blog, I like it!


Hi Cloey: How long did you live in the Twin Cities, and how long have you lived in New London? I haven’t exactly met friends my age here. I don’t have a job yet (although I’m looking) and I know getting a job would help. We don’t actually live on the farm – That house is falling apart, and we decided to buy an existing house rather than demolish the farmhouse and build a new one. We did live on the farm for about 6 months, though. We don’t have kids yet either, and I know exactly what you mean – how much easier it would be to make friends if you had kids. I think it helps to get involved in things that interest you, whether it’s church or a community education class or whatever. I need to work on it too.

I haven’t had McKale’s pie, but I’ve had their cookies and bars. Yum! Now I’ll have to have their pie too!

Thanks for checking out my blog!


I lived in Farmington for 6 years and moved to New London 2 1/2 years ago. I meet ALOT of people because I work in the healthcare field but you can’t befriend clients in my field.

One of the things I love to do in Willmar is go shopping at the thrift stores and the antique stores (there is a really cute one near the railroad). Another AMAZING place to go during the late spring and summer is Clemens Gardens in St. Cloud. If you have not been, you will be floored, so beautiful!

Hi Cloey:

I have had good luck at the “New 2 You” thrift store, but I don’t know about others. And I like “Old Town Antiques” which is by the railroad, but there’s another one by the railroad called “L & J Antiques” that I haven’t been to since they seem to have limited hours. And I have been to Clemens Gardens and I agree with you – It really is beautiful.

It’s so much fun reading your thoughts on Willmar from the perspective of a newcommer.
I spent much time in Willmar as a young girl and teenager and just can’t tell you enough what a great town it was back in the 50’s and 60’s. Litchfield Ave. was bussling with much activity and many great stores. There was Habichts, Butter’s, Torgeson, Buttries,
Penny’s, S&L, The Avalon Shop, Ranny’s Men’s Center, the Our Own Hardward, Hank’s Variety, a great cafe’ on Litchfield, and Walgreen’s with a lunch counter on 4th or 5th Ave. It was just a great place to shop and the weekends proved most fun with cruising from downtown to a drive south out of town on Minnesota Ave. with a stop at either Jack’s drive-in or the A&W drive-in. Ah-ah the memories!

Hi Julie: Thank you so much for your comments and compliments. I hear about how great Willmar was back in the day. It would be fun if I came across a collection of old pictures of downtown Willmar. The downtown area is pretty quiet now, with only a few businesses that have been there a long time. Now I have a written list of former shops to research, thanks to you! It sounds like you don’t live in Willmar anymore. Where do you live now?

I just wanted to say that I loved reading about your new experience to Willmar. I too, am looking to move out that way, but from much farther than 2 hrs :)
I’m looking forward to the move but of course nervous. I have a friend out that way and her family lives just south of Willmar. I’m a single parent, so I’m hoping to get involved with stuff pretty shortly after we arrive, in hopes to meeting some nice, new people.

Thanks again for sharing as it helped me a little with my nervousness :)

Ray Ray

Hi Ray Ray: I am so glad that you loved reading about my new experience in Willmar! From where are you moving? That’s understandable that you are nervous. I am starting to think that I should start up a group of Willmar newcomers, or maybe write a guide on moving to the area. That’s really good that you have a friend who lives here. As a parent, I think you will have a lot of opportunities to meet people.

Thanks again!


[…] of the newer Willmar-area bloggers on Areavoices is Sarah Kallevig, who blogged recently about moving to town and how she’s getting to know the community, making friends and figuring […]

Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.
Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking
about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions? Appreciate it

Hi Rosetta:

It was pretty easy to set up my blog, but I had the guidance of a West Central Tribune employee, Ashlee White. She could help you much more than I could since that’s her job, and if you’re interested in going with their format. Her email is Thanks for your interest!

Hi there, came across your blog trying to find information on Willmar. I’m a young professional (fed government) moving to the area next month and I’m scared! I’ve lived in the midwest for the last 4 years but I’m from the south. Looking forward to a new adventure!

Hi there! I’m so sorry that it’s taken me this long to respond. That sounds pretty normal to be scared to move, especially if you don’t know anybody here. Where in the Midwest have you been living? What size towns are you used to? If you’d like, I can put together a small group (including myself!) to meet with you once you’ve moved here. If you happen to be Lutheran, I can introduce you to my church. If you’re Catholic, I know very friendly people who go to St Mary’s, the big Catholic church in town. Anyway, you can do whatever you’re comfortable with. Willmar has activities going on all the time. There’s a theater in town that does productions several times a year. And musicians give concerts here. This last weekend, my husband and I went to a University of Minnesota marching band concert. That was really neat to see.