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I have never actually met Gary Cooper, but I've definitely seen him working in the grocery store over the years (including many Thanksgivings) and I've seen him on Walnut Street working the grill during River City Days. His face, like many others at Cooper's, is really familiar to me.

I've grown to appreciate these faces over the years. While I know their names because I've read their name tags, it's unlikely they know mine. What I'd like them to know is that I have loved having a locally-owned grocery store. Really.

I wasn't born and raised here, so I don't have historic ties to the community and I wasn't aware of the Cooper family when I arrived over a decade ago. I just loved having a locally-owned grocery store I could walk to that routinely delighted and surprised me with their variety of goods.

Over the years as I've watched the staff, I've appreciated that Cooper's is a union shop and a business that gives folks a chance. I don't know if that gets noticed by every customer, but to me that says a lot.

A few years ago, the Chaska Historical Society curated an eye-opening exhibit highlighting the Cooper family and the history of the store. There was a front page story in this newspaper. I was in awe learning about this truly American story that featured everything that our history textbooks hint at — immigration and settlement, discrimination and identity politics, ingenuity and resilience, commitment to community and service.

What a gift to have this family history as the foundation for our local grocery store and part of the larger story of Chaska. That's truly something take pride in and support.

The viability of Cooper's – our own grocery store – is in jeopardy. The good news is, we can help. I'm sure most folks are aware of the power of dollars spent locally.

Locally-owned businesses are the backbone of any thriving community. The reality is, chain stores don't plant roots and commit to a community. Yeah, perhaps you can find what you're looking for at a lower price, but the price itself doesn't give you the true cost.

Locally-owned businesses are part of our community's story and shape our identity as one of the “best small towns” in the nation.

We have a lot to gain by spending our money at a locally-owned business. Cooper's has shown us that for over 100 years.

Andrea Smith

Chaska

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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