CAMARGO — After almost seven decades of selling groceries and sundry items, Thompson's Grocery Store in Camargo is adding a new product: liquor.
Beer and wine will soon be added to the shelves at the small town store in Douglas County, thanks to a new liquor license being created by the town board. Voters passed the proposed liquor ordinance by a 70 percent margin in the November election.
"We had to do something different at the store. Selling groceries just wasn't working," said store owner and Camargo Mayor Jack Thompson. Thompson also has plans to add a grill in the store and start offering hamburgers and other hot food.
To make room for the new items and indoor seating, Thompson will be reducing the amount of groceries and other merchandise the store carries. "We are just keeping the stuff that sells. You can't keep stocking items that expire on the shelves," he said. They will also keep their popular meat counter and fresh deli sandwiches.
Thompson says he hasn't heard many complaints about bringing beer and wine sales to town. He mostly gets questions about when the new grill will be opening.
Camargo once had liquor sales and drinking establishments in town, but few people remember them and can't remember how long ago that was.
"Now people don't have to drive to Tuscola or Villa Grove; they can stay in town," Thompson said.
The details of the liquor ordinance are still being developed by the city attorney and will eventually be presented to the town board for review and approval. Thompson is not sure about the class of license and how many will be available.
However, he does know he may have to step down as mayor if he is also required to be the new liquor commissioner in town.
"It's a conflict of interest. The liquor commissioner can't also hold a liquor license," he said.
Thompson's term as mayor is up in April.
Another rural Camargo resident hopes to take advantage of the new liquor sales by selling locally produced wine.
Daphne Piercy operates a vineyard at her rural Camargo home. She has been investigating how to obtain a license to start selling her homemade wines.
Although she thinks she's about two years away from being operational in the wine-making business, she's excited about the opportunity to sell her wines locally to friends and neighbors.
"My sense is everyone is happy about it. I had people tell me they changed their vote after they heard I made wine," Piercy said.
The first place available to purchase Piercy's wine will be Thompson's Grocery Store.