What Willmar Needs


Posted by womanabouttown | Posted in Restaurants, Shopping, Willmar | Posted on 20-01-2013

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Ever since we lost the Kmart at the mall, I’ve been casually compiling a list of things that Willmar “needs.” It’s primarily a retail wish list, so there’s nothing deep, philisophical, or political here. This is the perspective of a 43-year-old woman (me), so take it with a grain of salt/read at your own risk.  Anyway, my suggestions: 

  1. a free, public, and easily accessible  indoor playground (in the mall?)
  2. a Cracker Barrel restaurant – in the southernmost part of town or right off Hwy 12
  3. a bistro or cafe across the street from WEAC (to enable pre-performance dining with one-time parking)
  4. Great Harvest bakery
  5. Kohl’s
  6. Petco or Petsmart
  7. Old Navy
  8. DSW (shoe warehouse)
  9. more trees along 1st St
  10. maternity clothing store, or bigger maternity sections in the existing department stores

I normally like to tout the local, independent businesses, but sometimes you gotta hit the big-box stores, and that’s often where you get the biggest bargains.


A year or so ago, I would have had more suggestions for downtown, but there seem to be changes/potential going on there. There are a couple of boutique-type shops, and a sports-bar is going in. I don’t normally care for sports bars, but it might be good for Willmar.


Cracker Barrel: Mmm, mm good. There is only one Cracker Barrel in Minnesota, and it’s in Lakeville, south of the Cities,  on I-35. What about travelers and truckers on Highways 71 or 12? Cracker Barrel in Willmar would make a killing. It’s down-home cooking, and there’s a cool country store attached.


Regarding more trees along 1st Street: That main thoroughfare could use some beautification in general, and more trees would be a great start. Look to ACMC, which did a great job in planting trees all around its building. A good time to plant a tree or 2: when new construction is going up and the concrete is all torn up anyway, like when they replaced the old Burger King with the new, or with the the new Goodwill.


Comments (14)

I totally AGREE with all of this!

Hi Lisa:
Thanks for agreeing with me, and thank you for reading my blog!

Interesting list! I’ll give my two cents on each one, take it for what it’s worth (two cents or less). I’m happy to live in Willmar, we have so much more than some places I’ve lived. But there is always room for improvement and without people like you thinking of ideas, we’ll never get there. This from a 38-year-old small town girl who had to drive at least an hour to get to the nearest Wal-Mart (my parents are still in awe when the come visit me and our Wal-Mart).

1. Indoor playground=good idea. In the mall=bad idea for patrons who do not have or necessarily like screaming kids. Alternative idea…how about that café-bistro listed below?

2. Cracker Barrel – good idea. I haven’t been to the one in Lakeville, but it sounds like an interesting and positive addition. Something unique that you can’t just get anywhere.

3. Café or bistro by WEAC – another good idea, maybe make it centrally located between The Barn and WEAC? Dinner and a show could be a way to partner the businesses.

4. Great Harvest Bakery – another one I’ve never been to, but does Willmar even have a stand-alone bakery? For the most part it’s just Cub, Cashwise and Wal-Mart, isn’t it? Might be a good idea…not sure of the market for one but worth checking out.

5. Kohl’s – yes. Yes. Yes again. I was an occasional K-Mart shopper and I miss having the mall space being use. BTW – did you know that the “old” theatre space is still set up as the old theatre? Not understanding that decision at all….it hasn’t been a theatre for what, 15 years? Surely some business would have rented that space if it were redesigned.

6. Petco or Petsmart – I’m not a pet owner, so wouldn’t care, but I can see a benefit to having that type of specialty store in town. Nearly 20,000 people, gotta be a lot of pets around.

7. Old Navy – meh. Albertville is close enough for me, but maybe a nice addition to people with kids or younger adults. I’m thinking the closest thing to it here is Maurice’s? And that’s just for girls. Not much for men’s casual except Wal-Mart (be honest, Target doesn’t have much in the Men’s department).

8. DSW – again, meh. They do have fun stuff though, and Tradehome and Herberger’s tend to be out of my price range, but Wal-Mart and Payless aren’t my favorite options either. Penney’s is usually my choice for athletic or dress.

9. More trees – good idea on incorporating trees into new or remodel business plans. Most can’t argue with planting trees. If they do, we should send The Lorax to their doorstep.

10. Maternity clothes – definitely not up my alley, but I’ll take your word on this. Kohl’s and Old Navy could help boost that selection.

Hi Michelle:
Thank you for your comments. Where did you grow up? I can see how living in the fairly large town of Willmar would have a lot more “stuff” than a small town. I agree with you about the cafe or bistro being between the Barn and WEAC…Willmar does have a stand-alone bakery. It’s on 1st Street across the street from Burger King. It’s pretty new (7 or 8 months old?) and I can never remember the name of it. They mostly sell fancy pastries and some hearty breads. Kohl’s probably would have a good selection of maternity clothes, that’s true. I don’t know if I have noticed maternity clothes at Old Navy. Kids’ clothing, yes. Anyway, thanks again for your comments, and thank you for reading my blog!

Hi Sarah, I grew up in Morris, so coming to Willmar was HUGE in the way of shopping, entertainment and diversity. I think we have a lot of potential here and am thankful for the people who make it happen.

Hi Michelle: I agree, we do have a lot of potential here, and I too am thankful for the people who make it happen.

Tastefully traditions…!

It’s Timeless Traditions….

Oh, and thanks for the info on the bakery! I will have to check it out!

I think you missed the part where Cracker Barrel restaurants had a policy of having minorities work out of sight in the kitchen, not in the front part of the restaurant. The exception being Gays and Lesbians, which they simply refused to hire. They are not the kind of neighbor you want in Willmar.

Hi Paul:Thank you for your viewpoints and for reading my blog. I didn’t know this about Cracker Barrel.

There is a indoor playground. Limited hours, and for those that work 8-5 jobs, it just doesn’t work. It is through the WCER. The reat of your ideas are wonderful!!! I am game for new food options and stores!!! Now a cafe/bistro and bakery in one. Even better!

Hi Briana:
I thought I remembered reading about the indoor playground, but like you said, I vaguely remembered the hours being limited. After your comment, I looked it up, and they’re only open 9:30-11:30 am. That sure is limited, but I suppose if you’re a stay-at-home parent or if you work just afternoon or evening hours, it could work out. Thanks for the info and for reading my blog!

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