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February 07, 2007

Only Seven More Days

...to get your sweetie something for Valentine's Day. I know that some people think that it's just a big scam created by Hallmark to sell more cards but personally I find the last two weeks of January and the first two weeks of February to often be times that challenge the spirits of even the hardiest folks. Therefore, I say, if life gives you a chance for celebration or romance, grab it with gusto.

Fortunately for the time- and/or idea-challenged, love is in the air, or at least the windows, of Downtown Northfield. The stores are open late on Thursday night and then again on Saturday, so you've got a little time yet and the retailers have plenty of possibilities. Those mentioned below are just a few that I noticed on a quick stroll down Division Street.

Swag has some cozy looking blankets, perfect for snuggling up to watch a movie, and Oolala has Love Letter Bath Salts for another way to warm up a cold night. Monkey See, Monkey Read has "The Hedonism Handbook" for some sensory stimulation on a special evening and Bookfellows has "Arthur's Valentine" as a gift for that younger dear one. Fashion Fair has some really nice red ties for him, including a marlin fishing one that caught my eye, Present Perfect has a "How to Keep Your Husband" apron for the wife with a really good sense of humor, and Ragstock has a bright red boa for those truly theatrical lovers. digs has a flower shaped holder with pink candles that will lively up any horizontal surface and the Arts Guild shop has hand-thrown bowls that give a common offering a touch of casual elegance.

Then there are the old standbys. The bakery has some sweet treats, as always, and the Cocoa Bean has a wide variety of candy, for that classic Valentine's gift. Of course, I believe that it was Will Rogers who said "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker" and the Northfield Liquor Store has a nice selection of fine wines to go with that exquisite dining experience that you're planning to serve up to your sweetheart.

Finally, if you really let it slide to the very last minute, there's two dozen restaurants in Downtown Northfield, where you can go out for the big night. Just check our Downtown Directory for a listing of options.

So, after reading this blog entry, you've got no excuses. Come on down(town) and make the 14th a bright light in dreary February.

December 06, 2006

Santa Arrives Just in Time for Winter Walk

NDDC Vice President Joe Grundhoefer, of J. Grundy's Rueb-N-Stein, directs a crew from Rick Pavek Construction Company as they deliver Santa's House to Bridge Square, just in time for tonight's (December 7th) Winter Walk.

The Santa House, brainchild of NDDC Board Member Linda Schneewind, owner (along with her husband, Eric Hope) of digs, was, due to a number of logistical challenges, in danger of being stuck at the North Pole. Joe was determined that the popular downtown destination would be delivered to Northfield again this year. Working with Rick Pavek and Rick Estenson, of 1st National Bank, the logistical challenges were met and Santa's House was delivered in the "Nick" of time.

So Come on Down(town) and enjoy Winter Walk, (5 to 9 pm) organized by the Retail Committee of the Chamber and supported by the downtown businesses. See your friends and neighbors, say "Ho, Ho, Ho" back to Santa, eat a few cookies, enjoy the strolling entertainers, and get moving on your holiday shopping. 'Tis the Season!

November 30, 2006

Hey, Check Out the Northfield News

This week's Wednesday edition of the Northfield News has one of the best editorials that I've read in a long time. It encourages Northfielders to support local merchants when doing their Holiday Shopping.

Not only does it share a message that is near and dear to the hearts of the folks at the NDDC, but the paper gets almost edgy. The editorial shares facts on the higher retention rate of dollars spent at locally-owned businesses, the economic benefit of such spending to the local tax base and the higher level of contributions to charities in the community that shopping local generates.

Louie and Devlyn, please consider this to be an "official" thank-you from the NDDC. We think it's a brilliant piece.

While you're reading Wednesday's paper, please be sure to check out the NDDC's ad with yet another reason for shopping in downtown Northfield. It's the second in a five-part series that we're running this season. Each ad has a different reason but promotes the same theme...shop local.

November 20, 2006

Pioneer Press Agrees with NDDC: Northfield is Number One

The St. Paul Pioneer Press ranked holiday shopping destinations in an article titled 5 great: shopping towns and guess who came out on top?

That's right good old Northfield, with its authentic downtown. As the article in Sunday's paper said, "Anyone can shop for holiday gifts online or at the mall". But if you're a little more daring or creative and you "enjoy the thrill of the hunt" and "you want to bask in holiday atmosphere" the paper suggests five places worth exploring, with Northfield leading the pack.

Who else in the list? Well, you might be surprised with the heady company we're keeping as a top holiday shopping destination in the upper Midwest region.

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Click these downtown photos to enlarge and see 100+ more photos in the 2004 Winter Walk album.

November 18, 2006

It's Beginning to Look alot like...

...Christmas Trees!

As I was passing Lansing Hardware this morning, I noticed some activity that caught my attention. Lee, the Honorable Mayor, was actually doing some heavier lifting that wielding the gavel. I'd say that these bits of green are destined to become yule tidings in local homes.

I sure do appreciate these local business folks. If it weren't for them, I'd probably forget the fact that next week is Thanksgiving, and that I'd better start thinking about what I'm gonna get for my various family members (besides socks) for that big day that is now just a few weeks away.

Thanks Lee...

...and if I see any of Santa's Elves, I'll send them over to help you with those trees.

November 15, 2006

'Tis the Season...

...for Shopping Downtown!

This early morning scene of City of Northfield workers putting up the Chamber of Commerce Holiday Banners reminded me that the Holiday Season is just around the corner...
...and that excellent shopping opportunities are literally just around the corner on Division Street.

So, save gas and time and enjoy creativity and community...
...by shopping in Downtown Northfield.

April 14, 2006

The Legs of Downtown Retail

As I was distributing an NDDC statement on 1306 to City Council members yesterday (more on that topic in a minute), I was asked by several people about my recent blog entry on the Northfield Union of Youth's upcoming Spaghetti Dinner. Specifically, they wanted to know which "Key Kids" worked in downtown businesses.

Well, I explained to the technologically challenged, but unnamed, individuals that if you click on the highlighted and underlined reference, you'll be taken to that web site. But this Key Kids - Downtown Business connection is way cool, so I've put the picture on our website too.

Now, I'm not suggesting that I'm noting everyone, and I'm certainly not guaranteeing that I've got the spelling right. However, my quick glance resulted in the following recognitions: Riahl O-Malley at Champion Sport, Stewart Moyer at Mike's Bikes and Sarah Lee at Tiny's Dog's All Day.

Let me know who I've missed...and who I've misspelled...

...thanks much.

November 07, 2005

United We Stand (to Increase Sales)

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Over 40 people showed up to the Acher House to hear Bruce Schwartau of the University of Minnesota Extension Service discuss strategies for small store success in an increasingly competitive retail marketplace.

He opened his presentation with findings from customer surveys that have been conducted in other small towns throughout Minnesota. He compared the retailers' view of their businesses with that of their customers' views. He pointed out that many retailers make assumptions about their customers that are not always accurate.

Bruce suggested that marketing is one area of merchandising that most retailers are weakest. He suggested "shopping" the low cost competitors to better focus and price your products. As many of those retailers present this morning already know, the smaller stores can often most effectively compete on quality and service or product selection and staff knowledge.


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Bruce also suggested that Northfield could get more leverage out of the trememdous asset that our downtown provides our retailers. He suggested that downtown Northfield provides one of Minnesota's most pleasant shopping experiences. We should cooperatively market it as such.

Of course, Bruce reminded folks about having consistent hours. Afterwards, he said if we could get 80% of the attendees to commit to doing something different or new to increase sales for the downtown district, it would be considered a great accomplishment.

Nov. 10 update: Here's the PDF of Bruce's Small Stores Succss Strategies PowerPoint outline. Click to view it with your web browser or right-click to download it to your PC.

September 28, 2005

How the Heavy Lifting Really Gets Done

Much of the work of the NDDC occurs behind the scenes...and is performed by elves.

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Keith Covey, Scott Davis, Joe Grundhoefer, Kiffi Summa and Victor Summa joined me this morning at the Upstairs Reub-N-Stein to stuff bags full of downtown goodies for Family and Parent Weekend at St. Olaf College. With such a combination of great minds, we quickly developed a perfect system...or two, to fill the bags.

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When the 500 bags of goodies were all lined up, it seemed like a cross between Martha Stewart and Halloween, especially with Krin Finger's hand-tied bows and Mary Rossing's fake fangs.

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The bags will be distributed to visiting Families and Parents at St. Olaf this Saturday. Two weeks from now, we'll do the same thing at Carleton College.

September 18, 2005

Bag of Downtown Goodies

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The NDDC is launching another Retail Initiative. For Parent and Family Weekends at St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges, we're going to distribute bags full of goodies from downtown.

We've had iniitial discussions with a few retailers and the ideas include pens, refrigerator magnets, chip clips, measuring tapes, coupon books, brochures and candy bars. Think of the State Fair but a little hipper.

Here's the trick; time is tight. We need to get everything in to the NDDC office by Wednesday, September 28th. We'll stuff the bags on Thursday the 29th for distribution at St. Olaf on Saturday, October 1st and Carleton on Satruday, October 15th.

We're really hoping that you'll participate. The more we get stuffed in the bags, the more likely that the parents and families will say, "Let's go downtown".

Any comments or questions, call Ross at the NDDC office, 663-0319.

August 09, 2005

Why Shop Local?

On the Citizen Wig website, there was a great blog that highlights one of the many benefits of shopping local...unmatched customer service.

Check it out at Citizen Wig...

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June 15, 2005

2003 Downtown Strategies Report

downtownimprovementstrategiesthumbnail.gifSeveral times during the recent Retail Trade Analysis meetings, the 2003 report of the Downtown Strategies Committee was mentioned. This document ends with a list of short, medium, and long term recommendations intended to strengthen downtown Northfield. In fact, one of the recommendations, an annual "Retail Summit", was the reason behind the June NDDC Downtown Forum.

For those who never saw (or have forgotten) the report, you may now download a pdf of the entire 2003 Downtown Strategies Report. Thanks to Deanna Kuennen, Economic Development Specialist at City Hall for providing this electronic copy to the NDDC.

Cookies, Coffee and Retail Ideas

Here's the list of ideas from Tuesday's Retail Summit:

Ideas to Strengthen Northfield's Retail
Generated at the 6/14/05 Forum

1. Buy Local Campaign
2. Set Store Hours for Commuters' Convenience
3. Check www.seta.iastate.edu for Ideas
4. Meet with the New Builders in Town
5. Leverage the Internet
6. Fill Empty Niches: Butcher, Hobby Store, etc.
7. Compete on Quality and Service, Stay Close on Price
8. Increase Non-Retail Pullers: Arts & Events
9. Improve Retailer/Resident Communication
10. Get to New Residents with Downtown Package/Basket
11. Mary Rossing's Cereal Bowl Music Fest
12. "Need More than 3 Great Days a Year"
13. Keep Community Members REGULARLY Coming Downtown
14. Get More Leverage from Students and Colleges
15. Well-Managed, Money-Attracting Festivals
16. Exploit Ease of Shipping
17. Match Product Mix with Demographics (New Housing)
18. Make Shopping Fun
19. Turn Unique Features into Competitive Advantage
20. Learn from Wisconsin Retail Hours Survey

It's still a bit raw. We'll spend a bit of time refining it but mostly we'll work on implementing it.

June 14, 2005

Wisconsin Study Suggests Successful Hours of Operations for Retailers

hoursslidethumbnail.jpg Bruce Schwartau sent me the slide that summarizes the Wisconsin study of consumers' preference of store hours for shopping.

June 13, 2005

Retail Analysis Redux

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Picture2.jpgIn case you missed it, Ross Currier wrote a nice piece for the Saturday edition of the Northfield News giving his take on last week's Downtown Forum and what it means for retail health in Northfield.

After you read it, you may wish to join Ross and others Tuesday, June 14 at 8 am to process the question "What do we do with the data?" In the lower level conference room of the Archer House, U of M Extension Service educator, Bruce Schwartau will facilitate the second half of the workshop that he presented last week. We promise to have you back at work by 9:30.

Once again, this workshop is co-sponsored by the Northfield News, First National Bank of Northfield and the NDDC.

June 07, 2005

Retail Trade Analysis workshop

This morning approximately 55 people heard Bruce Schwartau from the University of Minnesota Extension Service present a Retail Trade Analysis of Northfield and Rice County. The NDDC, the Northfield News, and First National Bank of Northfield sponsored the workshop to give the business community an opportunity to hear about the effects of "pull factors" and "surplus" or "leakage" of sales into or out of the Northfield area.

One interesting issue (among many) that surfaced during the discussion period following the presentation was the conundrum of whether or not Dundas and Northfield are competitors for retail sales or collaborators. In other words, should the two cities work together for the benefit of both or compete aggressively against each other? Which approach will be the most effective?

As promised at the meeting, I'm making a pdf download available of the complete Retail Trade Analysis document. You may also wish to view or download a pdf of the RTA PowerPoint Presentation.

There will be a follow-up meeting on Tuesday, June 14 to consider next steps in developing strategies to deploy in light of the data presented this morning. The meeting will be at 8 am in the Archer House. Mr. Schwartau will again facilitate.

May 31, 2005

Topic is Retail at next NDDC Downtown Forum

Bruce Schwartau of the University of Minnesota Extension Service will present a "Retail Trade Analysis for Northfield and Rice County" at the June NDDC Downtown Forum. The Retail Trade Analysis is based on state sales tax revenue and shows local market trends over the past 10+ years. It highlights both areas of strength and areas of opportunities for Northfield retailers.

What will a Retail Trade Analysis do for Northfield? Bruce has prepared a one-page explanation (pdf) called A Healthy Retail Community = A Healthy Town of some of the reasons for looking at this data.

The forum is being sponsored by the First National Bank of Northfield, the Northfield News and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation. It will be held on Tuesday, June 7th at 8:00 am in the Archer House Riverview Conference Room, 212 Division Street in downtown Northfield. The public is invited and coffee and cookies will be served.