Category Archives: Businesses

Just Food, Northfield Mercantile Receive National Notice

We know that Carleton and St. Olaf are well known beyond the confines of Northfield, as is Malt-O-Meal. But in the current issue of the Mother Earth News, two smaller local businesses are also garnering national attention. In an article entitled, “Twelve Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of”, Northfield is found with this description:
Continue reading Just Food, Northfield Mercantile Receive National Notice

Does Maslow’s Hierarchy Apply to Communities?

There’s an excellent article in the Boston Globe which has philosophical and sociological relevance to Northfield. The article was written in response to a July 25 decision by the Chicago Board of Aldermen (Alderpersons?), which passed an ordinance requiring large-scale retailers to pay their employees a “living wage”. Apparently this has been a very controversial decision, and many are squawking as if some basic constitutional right is being violated. What about “economic development”? And how will we get access to all that cheap stuff from China if we force the retailers to pay their employees enough to keep them off public assistance?

The article says, in part:

“…Do we really want our. . . cities to continue to act as if they must cede their public powers in order to attract private business?

“…With demand for urban locations higher, cities — as free marketers should be the first to realize — are no longer willing to sell themselves at any price. The Chicago Sun-Times, in the process of condemning the aldermen’s action, hit on just this point: “[They] think the dense Chicago market is too attractive for the retailers to pass up, especially since most suburban areas already are saturated. They’re taking a risk that Wal-Mart and Target are bluffing.” Exactly right. …after all, the new measure does not bar big-box retailers from doing business in the city. It just requires that they provide employees high enough wages and benefits so that the city won’t have to make up the difference through the social services it provides.

“…Big-box retailers also bring burdens along with benefits. Some studies show they may depress wages in related businesses or threaten small, usually family-owned retailers. In many cities … it is the growing immigrant neighborhoods, chock-full of such small family-run establishments, that are re-knitting the urban fabric and producing significant amounts of social capital. A law restricting big-box companies from using low wages to support price cuts that might force these important community retailers to close is arguably a tailored response to a reasonable concern.

“The Chicago debate is not really just about Wal-Mart, nor is it even about how big-box retailers should be regulated. It’s also about our cities–both how we should think about them and how they should think about themselves.” (emphasis mine)

The idea of cities being self-actualized shouldn’t be a new one. I get frustrated when Northfield seems to roll over and play dead when commercial and (more frequently) residential developers want to plunk their Legoland buildings and ersatz “communities” down in our fair city without regard for what we, the residents, want our community to be.

Louie Seez to retire

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In yesterday’s Northfield News, publisher Louie Seez announced his retirement, effective in December. (Left photo, L to R: Dean Kjerland, Kris Vohs, and Louie Seez at the open house for Northfield Crossing back in January.)

I don’t know Louie and I’ve not asked anyone at the News what he’s like as a manager or a media guy. I don’t have an opinion on what’s he done with the print edition during his short tenure. But in this age of new media, he’s clearly out of touch. The newspaper’s web site is horrid and their policy of making nearly all their content only available to paid subscribers is a detriment to their civic mission. And in a town known for its civic blogging and citizen journalism, they don’t appear to have a clue. Newspaper chains around the country are finding ways to embrace blogs and citizen journalism but not the Northfield News thus far, nor any of its sister publications that I know of.

I sure hope Renee Huckle and the other higher-ups at the Huckle publishing empire find someone who’s web-savvy to take Louie’s place and that they give them a long leash in deploying a web-based strategy. I’m doubtful, though, since Huckle Publishing doesn’t have a website for its home office HQ in Michigan.

(Renee Huckle is center in right photo, with Jennifer Sawyer on the left and Geralyn Sheehan on the right; photo taken at the Sesquicentennial appreciation night at the golf club last January)

Hotel coming to Northfield Crossing?

I’ve heard from a couple of reputable sources (hence the designation of ‘rumor’ for this blog entry) that Mendota Homes, developer of The Crossing, AKA Northfield Crossing), is trying to replace the planned second condo building in the southwest corner of the site with a hotel. The change in thinking is evidently because of the recent tanking of the condo market locally, statewide, and nationwide.
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The Edgewater is the name of the condo unit currently under construction on the NE corner. The office/retail condos on the NW part of the site are also being built. The hotel would go where the second condo unit, the Riverside, is depicted in the above sitemap.

I’m assuming that Mendota Homes would have to get approval from the City to make this change, since more than $3 million dollars of TIF money was involved in the deal between the City and MH.

Full disclosure: my wife Robbie and I have purchased a unit in the Edgewater. We’re wondering what the positives and negatives might be if this change is approved. Extra traffic? Loss of future neighbors? The latter is a big concern of mine. There probably are others.

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Maria’s Mexican Grill and Taqueria opens

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Maria Estrada opened her Maria’s Mexican Grill and Taqueria restaurant in the old Quizno’s space last week. They’ve operated the Taco Hut concession stand for several years, shown above on Bridge Square (that’s Maria with her husband Rafael and children) during DJJD. Click photos to enlarge.

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Anyone have details on whether Estrada’s have gotten assistance from the Northfield Chamber, the Northfield Enterprise Center (NEC), the EDA, or any other organization in town whose mission is, in part, to help local small business? It’s a great success story.