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Thompsons donate historic creamery building to Regional Cultural Center

Photo provided by the NYMRCC The creamery, shown here from the 1940s, was recently donated to the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center by Bob and Bonnie Thompson.

Bob and Bonnie Thompson, owners of the Mid-State Auto Auction in New York Mills, have made a gift of the historic creamery building to the New York Mills Cultural Center.

The Thompson family has been a long-time supporter of the Cultural Center, and they have been especially interested in the annual Great American Think-Off, sponsored each June by the Cultural Center. The creamery building has been a feature of downtown New York Mills since the 1920s; this gift will enable it to continue to be an important part of the community's life into the 21st century.

The Creamery was one of many similar small-town cooperatives formed by farmers in the early part of the 20th century. The Mills Cooperative Creamery was incorporated in 1911 and the present concrete and brick building was completed in 1924. The Cooperative continued until the early 1970s with its final manager being Arnold Bramson. During its last 20 years, the Creamery Coop operated one of the most popular dairy bars in Minnesota, selling its own locally made ice cream.

Waino Paavola reopened the building as Sportsport, a Crestliner boat dealership which operated until 1982. In 1983, the Creamery became the home of Thompson's Mid-State Auto Auction. Thompson held his first sale at the Creamery building on Aug. 11, 1983, selling 34 cars. Bob and his son Rob opened a new modern 68 acre site on the north side of New York Mills in 2003. Mid-State Auto Auction now serves dealers from the United States, Mexico, and Canada from its new location.

From 2004 until early in 2011 the Creamery was home to the Creamery Cafe run by Cheryl Humbert. The gift of the Creamery to New York Mills Cultural Center will usher in a two-month planning process in New York Mills to include every volunteer, governmental, non-profit, business, and school organization in town to create a new use and business plan for the building.

Initial ideas for the reuse of the building include a community kitchen to be focused on locally grown foods with cooking and nutrition classes. This use is especially convenient because the New York Mills Farmers' Market has been operating beside the Creamery building for the past two years. Other options may include continuing its use as a cafe, developing some of the space as artist's studios, and developing classes in the home and fine arts as a part of a proposed Continental Divide Folk School. These and other uses will be part of a public, community conversation to take place in the first two months of 2012.