Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Could it be... Independent Retail?!?

Ah, my fellow Minnesotans: you have it so good, but do you realize it? Do you wake up every morning thanking the gods for your good fortune?

Another thing that blows me away all the time about Minneapolis is the huge quantity and variety of local, independent retail stores. If you're from the Twin Cities, you may not realize how rare it is that a huge percentage of the businesses in the cities are independent.

Back in Cleveland, we were continually confounded by the lack of independent retail. Where was the American entrepreneurial spirit? Why was every strip mall an endless parade of Paneras, Cingular (er, AT&T) Wirelesses, Dunkin' Donuts and RadioShacks? What ever happened to that fabled "mom&pop" operation?

I spent huge amounts of time debating whether or not public policy could rebuild independent retail. Did we need more business incubators? More training for entrepreneurs? A tax code that favored small businesses?

And then I moved out here, and wow! Everywhere I look I see independent businesses. Besides the restaurants (big fan of Barbette & Three Fish), I see record stores (Electric Fetus), clothing (Cliche), quirky Asian imports (Robot Love), audio repair (The Good Guys), jewelers (Gerber, Gold'n Treasures), and more. Grand Avenue (with the exception of the Pottery Barn stretch) is a real testament to the strength and vitality of independent retail in the Twin Cities. How did you do it? Is there just an incredible commitment on a cultural level? Are there public policies of which I'm unaware that foster this growth?


Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

Minnesotans may be nice, but they're a stubbornly independent breed! Yea, you betcha! Imagine that for years in the '60's and '70's Mankato refused to allow the former Dayton's department store (Minnesota's premier store, mind you) permission to build there. They didn't need those "big city" stores infringing on their space! We're nice, but stubbornly independent! I actually was disappointed in the last couple years to see Caribou, Pier 1, Babies R Us, and other chains open on Grand. It used to be Grand Ave. was pure, but now . . .

2:39 AM  
Blogger Ed Kohler said...

I think Bonnie's right about the benefits for stubbornness in preventing chains from invading. Stillwater is going through this, and so far has only allowed one major chain onto main street, as far as I can tell: Starbucks.

12:02 PM  

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