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Community-owned grocery store proposed for Kirkland

KIRKLAND – While Kirkland leaders are focusing on cleaning out the village-owned former grocery story, one idea has surfaced about what the next business to open there could be.

Dan Kenney, executive director of DeKalb County Community Gardens, is suggesting opening a community-owned grocery store in the empty building the village purchased in December. Village leaders have set aside about $250,000 in tax-increment financing funds to renovate the building and formed an ad hoc committee to clear and renovate the building so it can be sold or rented.

But Kenney plans to talk with village trustees in March about a community-owned grocery store, which could include an independent retailer, a cooperative, a school-based store or some combination of the three. The community would decide what works best, Kenney said.

“The first step would be for the board to say they like the idea,” Kenney said. “Then we would hold a public meeting and see who shows up.”

Kenney suggested potential partners in the project could be DeKalb County Community Gardens, KishHealth System, Kishwaukee College, Northern Illinois Center for Governmental Studies and others.

“I’m mostly interested in this project because of my interest in local foods, which generate more income for the local economy in terms of local ownership and economic development,” Kenney said.

Recruiting companies to the area can leave a gap of sorts, Kenney said.

“When it’s not good for their bottom line, they move,” he said.

Village Trustee John Pierce said he needed more information before making a decision on Kenney’s proposal.

“I think it would be good to have a grocery store in town again, particularly for the elderly residents who have to rely on someone else to get their groceries,” Pierce said.

Although Village President Les Bellah is willing to listen, he said there’s a more pressing issue for the project.

At Monday’s Village Board meeting, board members will consider an ordinance that declares everything inside the building as surplus property so it can be salvaged.

“I can call the scrappers on Tuesday morning,” Bellah said. “They’ll do a walk-through to determine what they are going to sell and what they will scrap.”

Bellah said the company, based in Rochelle, will pay the village $700 and remove everything in the building.

“They will take everything off our hands,” Bellah said. “There’s nothing in there that’s helping us now.”

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