You've read the stories just like I have over the past years and decades.

The small towns are dying. The rural communities are fading away. Schools closing. Hospitals closing. Empty buildings along main street, where once-upon-a-time bustling businesses not only survived but thrived.

For many of us, it's not just any small town, it's our hometown. And so, it's a particularly sad story. Well, this is not one of those stories.

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My hometown, Leota, Minnesota, is a small town and it's always been a small town. And truth be told, it doesn't have all the businesses and schools it did 'back in the day' when I was a little whippersnapper growing up there.

Leota has gone through changes through the years, the same kinds of changes that your small town has been going through. For me and this little town that I am so very proud of, well...that building used to be a full-functioning gas service station. There was a hardware store right there, and another one across the street. There was a Chevrolet dealership in that building and a really cool rock shop there.

Yes sir, there are some businesses that were there that aren't there now. Some call it progress, others call it just the passing of time.

But let me tell you about a small-town success story.

That picture you see up there at the top of the story? Well, if you took that same picture when I was about 10 years old, you'd have seen a little grocery store with a little butcher shop. And yes, the emphasis would be on 'little'. Heck, I can still see my Mom in that little grocery store well more than a half-century later, visiting with Sophie Beckering and getting her milk and bread bagged up. I'd have a nickel pack of baseball cards in my hand. Maybe even a bottle of pop.

Now, that little place is bigger and better and beautiful!

V&M Locker and Grocery is what it's called. They completed an overhaul in the last few years, a remodeling. There was tearing down and building up. There was expanding and upgrading and what a job they did!

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Used With Permission

They have most of the grocery items you need, and their locker is becoming famous, not only around the area but around the region and especially the state of Minnesota. In fact, the Meat Market has become well known for having the best Hot Dogs in the entire state of Minnesota!

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Used With Permission

My brother Larry tells me the Locker and Meat Market is the best, and he's been on the planet even longer than I have. He motors over from Mankato because he likes it so much. Me? Well, we make the short trip for the jerky. Oh, and the dogs.

The Ruiter clan have the business, and I've known them all my life. In fact, I grew up with Verlyn (that'd be Art's boy) and they're one of those families that you're proud to call friends and neighbors.

Yep, small towns have challenges. But one of the ways to meet those challenges?

Buy local. Shop local. And if you want the best hot dog you'll ever have?

Well, my hometown, the town that I'm so very proud of, is only an hour or so from Sioux Falls. Take I-90 and maybe the Luverne exit. Maybe the Magnolia exit. You might motor through Edgerton on the way. Maybe Kenneth. It's a pretty drive either way. Pick yourself up a package or two or three of the best hot dogs, maybe some burgers and steak. And for crying out loud, don't forget the jerky!

And plan on spending a little time with the friendliest folks you'll ever meet.

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