One store that I would love to see added to downtown Leavenworth is the Mercantile Cooperative which is presently located on Iowa in Lawrence and is better known as the Merc.

One store that I would love to see added to downtown Leavenworth is the Mercantile Cooperative which is presently located on Iowa in Lawrence and is better known as the Merc.

They are the consummate health food store. Besides just carrying all sorts of great food choices, they also teach classes on a regular basis so that you can learn to bake with whole wheat flour, for example, or learn how to work with some of those crazy ethnic foods that you can find in the grocery stores.

I am aware that there are, or at least used to be, several groups of folks from Fort Leavenworth who would take turns driving to Lawrence with a list of foods to buy and to bring back to the fort. In my conversations with some of the Merc higher-ups, they say that they have a pretty good number of folks from the Leavenworth area who regularly shop at the Merc. I don't know if the numbers are high enough, but they may be a good beginning that could entice them to open up a store here.

I could see a Leavenworth branch located in the former Dix Office Supply on Delaware. It has a fairly large cellar and three floors above and a working elevator, but it does need a lot of work, especially the two upper floors.

In my mind, I see the main floor used for the food area and the upper floors used for classes. The classes could include more than food-related subjects. I could see classes in the arts, as well. For example, floor looms could be set up to be used to teach weaving and easels could be used to teach painting and drawing. It would sort of be a health and art center to replace the Carnegie.

Leavenworth County is not ranked very high in health issues if I remember correctly, so I believe that a center that makes its living teaching and providing for the best health of our citizens would be a good thing for the community. The Extension Service already provides an excellent service to the county, but it is extremely limited in space and a cooperative effort between the Extension Service and the Merc would be great in my mind.

Leavenworth is already served by some outstanding physical health centers and along with keeping you in great physical condition is having access to and knowing how to cook with excellent foods. I am aware of several families that drive to the city to buy from Whole Foods stores and there are those who drive to Lawrence to the Merc. We do have grocery stores that provide good food, but there must be something that draws people to places that specialize in those other foods.

I think that a critical aspect is the educational effort that the Merc makes to teach people how to use good foods. I would love to see Leavenworth known as a city where everyone is in great health, but maybe people have to learn how to shop for the best foods and to cook them properly. This is important if for no other reason than poor health results in huge health care expenses which have to be covered by insurance and indigent care at our hospitals and that almost always requires higher taxes.

We do not absolutely need the Merc to teach us how to live better and to supply us with better foods, but they are already doing it in Lawrence and have the experience and have been very successful at doing it for many years. I would definitely welcome the Merc to Leavenworth and I would even be one of the volunteer members that helps keep the store running.

Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.