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In the year 1871, Andrew Larson came to Willmar and became associated with the late J. M. Spicer in the mercantile business. This partnership continued for a period of 14 years. In 1885, he purchased Mr. Spicer’s interest and carried on the business under the firm name A. Larson and Co. until 1900.

Over the years, many different businesses occupied this space. At one point in time, there were technically two buildings on this block, 539 Pacific Avenue Southwest and 540 Benson Avenue Southwest, but they were utilized together (and separate) over the years. In 1919, the north side (539 Pacific Ave SW) was the location for the Kibbey Engineering Service Company. J.A. Myron was the Branch Manager at the time. During this time, the south side of the building (540 Benson Ave SW) was home to the Willmar Cooperative Mercantile Company. A person could enter on the south side at Benson Ave SW and walk through the entire building, coming out on the north side at Pacific Ave SW. In 1954, Quality Dairy occupied the whole building space until they turned the south side into storage for their business in 1961. After Quality Dairy vacated the building a few years later, the south side of the building continued to be storage space, while the north side was turned into apartments. In 1980, Dwight Barnes moved into the south side of the building, renovated the space, and began doing photography there. He also began selling fresh, handmade chocolates out of this space in 1995. This business was known as Mr. B’s Chocolates. Mr. Barnes has since moved to his newest location next to West Side Liquor on Highway 12 in Willmar. The old building space was later converted back to two separate buildings. The north building on Pacific continues to be apartments, while the south building is now the home for the Olde Town Antiques store. This building was not only the first dry goods retail store in Willmar, but it is also the oldest commercial building downtown.

 

A. Larson & Co. Building (Currently Olde Town Antiques)

Map Location 19