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New York Mills historic creamery set to get new life

Marie Nitke/FOCUS Mid-State Auto Auction owners, Bob and Bonnie Thompson, seated in front, with (left to right), New York Mills Regional Cultural Center board members Manley Nichols, Beth Super and Alice Martin, with Rob Thompson, board member Trisha McCarthy and Cultural Center Executive Director, Jamie Robertson.1 / 3
Marie Nitke/FOCUS Bob Thompson signs over the deed to the historic creamery building in New York Mills.2 / 3
The creamery in the 1940s.3 / 3

New York Mills is on the verge of having its own community center.

As of Tuesday, the historic creamery building in downtown is under the ownership of the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, which plans to renovate the building and put it to use as a community kitchen, folk school, café and gathering place.

The building will be renamed Thompson Community Center, in honor of Bob and Bonnie Thompson, owners of Mid-State Auto Auction, who donated the structure. The two have been long-time supporters of the Cultural Center.

"I think it belongs to the town of New York Mills," said Bob Thompson of why he chose to sign over the deed to the old creamery. "The Cultural Center has a good history of taking care of buildings. I have no doubt they'll not only take care of it, but they'll make something special out of it."

The Thompson's gift will usher in a two-month planning process to create a new use and business plan for the building. Jamie Robertson, executive director of the Cultural Center, said the process will include public conversations with every community organization and resident interested in the project.

Initial ideas for the reuse of the old creamery include a community kitchen, which would focus on locally grown foods and house cooking and nutrition classes. Goods from the NY Mills Farmers' Market, which has been operating beside the creamery building for the past two years, could easily be incorporated.

The Cultural Center has also suggested that some of the space be used for artist's studios and toward the development of the arts. Under the umbrella name of Continental Divide Folk School, there could be workshops by visiting artists and community-based classes in the traditional folk arts.

In addition, the building could serve as a Cyber Café, a health and wellness center, and a place for people to gather for birthdays, wedding receptions, community fundraisers and other events.

And that's just the start. The community-wide planning process will take place throughout January and February, during which time more ideas are bound to be put on the table.

"It's a huge asset to the community," said Robertson of the building. With its historical background and architectural importance, along with its visible location right on Centennial Drive, he added, "We're fortunate."

The creamery building has been a feature of downtown NY Mills since the 1920s. The Mills Cooperative Creamery built the concrete and brick structure in 1924, operating into the 1970s as one of the most popular dairy bars in the state, selling locally made ice cream.

Later, the building was home to a Crestliner boat dealership, then Thompson's Mid-State Auto Auction. From 2004 until early 2011, it housed the Creamery Café.

After the café closed, Robertson got the idea to turn the building into a community hub, and sent a proposal to Bob Thompson. Just last week, the Cultural Center got the good news - the building was theirs.