- Associated Press - Saturday, December 31, 2016

GODAHL, Minn. (AP) - A general store that had been the gathering spot for the tiny southern Minnesota farming community of Godahl for 122 years has succumbed to the inevitable.

The Godahl Store made preparations this week to close its doors for good at the end of the day Saturday. Built in 1894, it was the oldest consumer cooperative general store still operating in Minnesota and the third oldest in the United States, The Free Press of Mankato reported (https://bit.ly/2icSwdM).

“The operations of the store have been subsidized by community fundraising for years,” said Carlie Olson, who lives near Godahl and whose husband is on the board that oversaw the store.

Olson said the sales volume was so low that vendors would no longer deliver milk, household cleaners, nonperishable food and other staples to the rural outpost about 35 miles west of Mankato, so board members and supporters bought items in other communities to stock the shelves.

“There’s been a ton of support in the way of fundraising, but it reached a point where it couldn’t be sustained,” Olson said.

Officially called the Nelson and Albin Cooperative and Mercantile Association, it has always been much more than a store, and Olson and others hope to preserve the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, as a community center.

“It’s always been a community gathering place. There is a group of men that come for coffee every day. There’s teams that play baseball and softball in Godahl that come in and are tied to it. It has a lot of historical significance to the farmers in the area,” Olson said.

Godahl, which that straddles Brown and Watonwan counties, has about 20 residents within its borders. But the larger farming area around it - and the nearby towns of Hanska and St. James - have always embraced the enclave.

“They take a lot of pride in their community, which is understandable,” said St. James Mayor Gary Sturm. “It’s unfortunate the store’s closing. They’ve tried so hard for so long to keep it open.”

Taking its name from Nelson and Albin townships that Godahl straddled, the Nelson and Albin Cooperative Mercantile Association was established in 1894, with bylaws written in Norwegian and shares available at $20. In 1905 the store installed one of the first telephones in the area.

Olson said the board will hold a community meeting in January to get ideas on how to proceed.


Information from: The Free Press, https://www.mankatofreepress.com

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