As 2013 draws to a close it takes a mixed bag of economic successes and losses with it.
On the plus side, more activity was visible in business start-ups and additions than in recent years. Established businesses branched out or expanded or relocated. Others shut the doors from small businesses to large employers like Wausau Paper. Topics of the year included food trucks and electronic signs. Tourism reported modest growth.
So if it seemed to pass in a blink of an eye, here’s a look back at some of the business changes of the past year. Hardy souls continued to look to open small businesses. Picture Perfect opened in downtown Brainerd. Boomer Pizza opened in Baxter. The first taproom opened in Baxter with Jack Pine Brewery. As one door closed another opened. Jimmy’s Pizza on Washington Street closed and a Jimmy’s Pizza opened in Crosby. Taco Bell in Baxter got a new look.
Restaurants were among the strong trends with the Four Seas Super Buffet opening in the East Brainerd Mall. Hassie’s brought new life to the restaurant on Highway 210 by the airport. The Boulder Tap House opened in the former Famous Dave’s in Baxter.
Home Choice opened in the North Pointe Centre in Baxter.
Other existing businesses moved to new locations. Dondelinger’s auto dealership moved out to a new facility on Pine Beach Road, paving the way for Viking Land Harley-Davidson to move from Highway 371 to Highway 210 and greater visibility. Utrinkets moved from Nisswa to downtown Brainerd, taking over the space vacated when the Bead Box closed. Birgit’s Jewelers moved from east Brainerd to the Westport Mall in Baxter. New life went into the Butler Building in downtown Aitkin, but the iconic Aitkin Bakery with its inexpensive bakery goods closed. Simonson Lumber moved from Washington Street to west Baxter just off Highway 210 in the old Stock Lumber building.
The Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and Minneapolis Heart Institute clinic opened on Isle Drive in Baxter. Safari North began building its animal park south of Brainerd, anticipating a 2014 spring opening.
Some familiar places changed as the Quarterdeck became the LakeShore Lodge and announced major renovations with a new lodge opening in the spring of 2014. Other spots like PrimeTime Food and Spirits in Breezy Point or Nisswa Drug, Northwood Turf and Power in Baxter or Northwest Pizza/Boardwalk Bread and Bagel in Brainerd changed ownerships. Northwest Pizza in Brainerd also changed its name to Brick House Pizza.
The Pequot Lakes SuperValu opened a Heroes Coffee Shop, a gourmet wholesale roaster, which is stafed by Local 653 union members.
A changing of the guard was visible on numerous health care fronts as Riverwood in Aitkin and Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and Essentia Health in Brainerd all gained new leadership positions.
The Crossings, formerly the Hawthorn Inn & Suites, on Fairview Road has a new name as the Baymont Inn & Suites, a hotel franchise with Wyndham Worldwide. The ownership of the hotel hasn’t changed or the rates, but the brand change is expected to reach more customers because of Wyndham’s extensive chain in the U.S. and beyond and perks for return guests. There are two Baymonts in Minnesota, Baxter and Eden Prairie.
With another blast of arctic cold arriving to end the year, getting out of the area for a mid-winter break may be just the ticket.
And if the ticket includes airfare, Jeff Wig, manager at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport said a recent local Delta staff fare check found the additional airfare to start a Delta flight in Brainerd instead of driving to Minneapolis “has remained steady at $65 per person for a round trip.” Wig said SkyWest has posted strong reliability during its first full year of serving passengers at the Brainerd airport. SkyWest took over as the main carrier on Dec. 15, 2012.
“They canceled only three flights out of 460 from June 1 - Nov. 30th,” Wig reported. “This cancelation rate os 0.6 percent is well below the national average.”
On a personal note, as another year of recovering from the Great Recession passes, let’s hope for a more prosperous 2014. A year perhaps where the best of both worlds can finally meld where we can take what we’ve learned after the struggles of recent years and finally move forward to better days with fresh optimism, albeit tempered by the experience of the last six years.
Thank you to readers who bring the Dispatch into their homes and businesses in print, with iPads or on phones. Thank you to the people who have shared their personal stories of triumph or tragedy and everything in between. Each one helps us all come to a greater understanding of the community we share. Thank you to all those who took the time from their own busy schedules to return a call, or answer a question so we could keep readers informed. Each new day provided a fresh start to do it all over again.
Now, the new year offers another moment for new beginnings and fresh starts.