Stories: What Brought You To Northfield?

g.g.grandpa PNSWe’ve had an ongoing discussion thread on what’s great about Northfield, and the diversity of comments led me to wonder about a related topic: What was it that brought you to Northfield? Much can be attributed to the lure of the colleges, both for academic and employment purposes, but anecdotal evidence leads me to suspect that many people have moved here quite deliberately, choosing Northfield for the various qualities that people have identified in the other post.

My great-great-grandfather's trunkMy story is a bit more serendipitous. I wasn’t brought up in Northfield (my dad left the old hometown for the bright lights and big city), but my roots in the area go back five generations, when my great-great-grandfather (above) came from Denmark with his stylish luggage (right). I moved to Northfield in 1991, with a baby and a toddler in tow, in order to care for my aging grandfather. I figured that any community that offered social, recreational, and educational opportunities for citizens ranging in age from 1 to 87 (as my family did at the time) was a pretty good bet, so we stayed.

So, what’s your story? Why did you move here? Or, in the case of those who grew up here: What was it that drew you back?


  1. Rob Hardy said:

    We arrived in August 1990 when my wife took a job at Carleton. She had two tenure-track job offers: one in Northfield, Minnesota, and one in Winter Park, Florida. Call us crazy, but neither one of us wanted to live in Florida. For one thing, I sunburn too easily. Northfield sounded perfect.

    February 12, 2008
  2. Well, many of you know the Hvistendahl name in Northfield, from my brother David Hvistendahl (attorney and owner of Froggy Bottoms) and my mother Marion, who portrays Ann North (wife of Northfield’s founder) and other women of history and who taught many Elder Collegium classes and my nephew Jake, manager and co-owner of Froggy Bottoms. I was actually the first Hvistendahl in Northfield (ta da!), coming from Brookings, S.D., graduating from St. Olaf in 1968 (brothers David and Brad followed me). David stayed on in Northfield but I ended up spending almost 30 years in New York, teaching Spanish, doing free-lance writing (I have an M.A. in English from Iowa State) and working as a research assistant to the author Roger Kahn (author of “The Boys of Summer,” about the Brooklyn Dodgers and of Pete Rose’s “autobiography” that I did interviews for, among other works). When my marriage (of 35 years, to a Carleton grad) ended, I returned to Northfield in 2004 to be with family and Midwestern friends and relatives. And though it is different from New York, of course, I am glad to be here, living in a condo with a Cannon River view, doing projects for the Northfield Historical Society, writing a column for the Northfield Entertainment Guide, teaching and tutoring in Spanish, welcoming newcomers for Welcome Services for You. So many opportunities in this fascinating, historic and beautiful river town.
    Oh, by the way, I can tell you stories of interviewing Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist, and Yogi Berra, Don Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese, etc., but a recent interview for the Scriver Scribbler with 91-year-old Herold Marquardt who has donated 1403 Lions Club pins to the Northfield Historical Society has its own rewards. And we are videotaping oral interviews for NHS to preserve the special stories of this wonderful community. ¡Viva Northfield!

    February 12, 2008
  3. I grew up here, and I always liked it better than the cities. Now I just go up there for things that really require a Big City presence — such as the recent church of scientology demonstrations, which really only work in places that have an office.

    I like living someplace where I feel pretty much safe walking at night. (I mean, substantially less safe since the demonstrations, but… You gotta do what you gotta do.)

    February 13, 2008
  4. Jerry Bilek said:

    In 1991, an old friend of mine called and asked “What are you doing?”


    “I mean what are doing with your life?”

    “not much.”

    “Want to move to Northfield and help me open a coffeehouse?”

    “Sure, where’s Northfield?”

    “South of Minneapolis. It’ll be fun.”

    I moved in Jan, 1991. We opened Goodbye Blue Monday in March of 1991. One of our first customers was my, now, spouse. I fell in love. I decided to stay.

    February 13, 2008
  5. Britt Ackerman said:

    I came to the ‘field in 1996 as a freshman at Carleton. I’m originally from a small town in rural Nebraska (Beemer; population 720) so I never wanted to go to a big university in a metropolitan area. By the middle of my sophomore year, I was out of money and couldn’t afford future room and board with the $6 an hour I made as a Wal Mart cashier back in Nebraska during school breaks. So, I began searching for a part-time job here in Northfield.

    I walked into the Rueb ‘n’ Stein one morning and asked about an application. Joe Grundhoefer himself interviewed me on the spot. I told him about my extensive experience running a local diner back home; that I could and would do anything needed and that I would be the hardest worker he ever had. I told him that I needed to make as much money as possible and that he’d never regret hiring me. He hired me on the spot, and I went on to work for Joe through college, and then law school. Without the financial and emotional support of Joe and Jodi Grundhoefer, I would never have been able to make it through college, much less law school.

    Working in downtown Northfield allowed me to learn more about the town than I would have had I stayed primarily on campus in the Carleton “bubble”. I came to know the downtown business owners, regular customers at the Rueb became like family, and I was more comfortable hanging at Blue Mondays than at the student center.

    By the time I reached my senior year at Carleton, I decided that my chief goal was to become a permanent “townie”. I decided against going to Kellogg for my M.B.A. and instead chose to pursue the J.D. I’d always wanted by going to Mitchell. Local attorneys like Marv Grundhoefer and Bob Lampe told me that Mitchell had the best reputation for turning out Minnesota’s lawyers, so I went there. I commuted to St. Paul my entire three years of school, because it was important to me to keep living and working in Northfield.

    I’ve never regretted my decision to put roots down here, to choose a humble life in the ‘field over a glitzy urbane one. I feel good when I honk at the Saturday peace activists because they epitomize Northfield’s active and passionate community spirit. I feel secure when I run into old friends at Tiny’s over a hot dog and cup of coffee. I like knowing almost everyone I encounter on the street. I’m proud to have matriculated from such a fine school as Carleton.

    So, to get back to the theme of this post, Carleton brought me here, but it’s the town that made me stay.

    February 14, 2008
  6. Lance Heisler said:

    I came here solely to capture the love of a truly hot, gorgeous, intelligent woman. That alone keeps me here and totally preoccupied full time. No offense to any of the rest of you.

    February 18, 2008

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