Would Jessica Lange move to Northfield?

In today’s Strib: Lange says Stillwater has been ‘yuppified’:

Oscar-winning actress and native Minnesotan Jessica Lange spoke openly recently of the change she saw in her former part-time home of Stillwater. Her observations weren’t very kind.

“When we first moved to Stillwater, it still felt like a real place. It had a downtown with a hardware store, a furniture store, a clothing store,” she said in an interview Sunday with the New York Daily News to promote her newest film, “Bonneville,” which opens Friday.

“Now it’s all gift shops and these terrible condominiums,” she added. “It was a little town with a great deal of character. Everything gets yuppified, I guess.”

Northfield’s downtown still has a hardware store, a furniture store, clothing stores, and grocery stores. But might our downtown eventually suffer the same fate as Stillwater’s downtown? What, if anything, can be done to prevent it?


  1. Clay Oglesbee said:

    A woman of my close acquaintance would say, Jessica can only move here if she brings Sam Shephard with her.

    February 26, 2008
  2. Margit Johnson said:

    Shop downtown early and often. Support our independent business owners.

    If local prices are somewhat higher (and often they are not) remember that you are getting fabulous service and unbeatable convenience in the bargain.

    February 26, 2008
  3. Sam Shephard, is one of my favorite actors and he played Frank James in the Jesse James movie that came out a few months ago, so he would fit in perfect.

    February 26, 2008
  4. When I worked in a bookstore in Stillwater back in 1995-1996, Ms. Lange would come in and chat and buy books. She was a very polite and engaging person. Quite “normal” – whatever that means – so much so that the first time she came in, I didn’t even know it was her until she handed me her credit card.

    I did get the impression that she wanted a simpler life for herself and her daughter.

    I believe she and Sam had to get a variance from the Stillwater city council to build a fence around their house that was higher than the limit of 6 feet. People would drive by all the time and take pictures. They had to put in a higher fence to get some privacy.

    February 26, 2008
  5. I was at the Uptown Theater several years ago, and they were both in line ahead of me to get popcorn. I got to the head of the line and told the kid working that he had just served an Oscar winner popcorn and he looked disinterested and shrugged.

    There is also a funny story, perhaps myth, about her daughter applying to a dance class in Stillwater–what’s your last name? “Baryshnikov”.

    February 26, 2008
  6. Rob Hardy said:

    We still have a downtown hardware store, but we no longer have a downtown hardware store with a bird in a cage and an old guy sitting around in a lawn chair.

    February 26, 2008
  7. Jerry Bilek said:

    Hayes said:
    “Sam Shephard, is one of my favorite actors”

    Did you see the Pelican Brief? enough said.

    I think he’s a better writer than actor.

    there is a certain level of yuppification around here, I’d say it’s tolerable.

    February 26, 2008
  8. William Siemers said:

    Ross said: What can be done to prevent it?

    Rezone downtown to prevent the further establishment of any business selling knick-knacks, curios and (most importantly) candles.

    February 26, 2008
  9. Ross Currier said:

    William, I said:

    “It’s hard for real downtowns, symbolized by the presence of a hardware store and clothing store, to survive with the Wal-Marts and Lowe’s out on the highway. The gift shops are intended to serve the desired visitors and the condos are hoped to add population density to support the traditional retail. Towns try to add the promising without sacrificing the valued.”

    I’m more into facilitating the promising than preventing the threatening.

    February 26, 2008
  10. William Siemers said:

    Ross…I get your point.

    sorry…I misquoted you…It was Griff who said..’What if anything can be done to prevent it.”
    “It” being, if I am not presuming, the ‘yuppification’ of Stillwater explified by that town’s proliferation of gift shops.

    February 26, 2008
  11. Rob Hardy said:

    I think it’s great that, along with the scented candles, etc., we have places like Echo and Sweet Lou’s and Goodbye Blue Monday that appeal to youth.

    February 26, 2008
  12. Tracy Davis said:

    Obviously this is a complex issue. One of the things I enjoyed most about visiting the UK last fall was going through towns (and even parts of large cities) that had a central square with a cluster of retail and service businesses that we just don’t see anymore in the US since we subcontracted all of it to Wal-Mart. Greengrocers, hardware stores, drugstores, locksmiths, cheese shops, pet stores, florists, repair shops, booksellers, bookmakers…. and it was interesting to look at a lot of the wares, and find that most of them were NOT made in China. (China is the US’s manufacturer, but it really isn’t the manufacturer for the rest of the world, except in a few industries.)

    I, for one, will shop independent retailers as much as I can, hoping to help them survive until the tide turns back in that direction. (There are already indications that’s beginning to happen.) I wonder what will happen to all the enormous MEGA-STORES when Boomers start having mobility issues and the four-acre footprint of the stores starts to be intimidating. Scooters for everyone? Or will the companies start scaling things down to a human level?

    It’s not “inevitable” that Northfield will devolve into a latte town, but it requires a bit of vision and a lot of determination.

    February 27, 2008
  13. Why can’t our retailers order some Austrian fabric or Australian fans or some African fetishes?

    February 27, 2008
  14. William Siemers said:

    Not sure where to put this…but this thread seems as good as any.

    How can people be expected to walk around this town when the sidewalks are not shoveled? What good is it to invest in solutions that encourage walking (for any number of good reasons) if one can not walk safely.

    I just walked from my humble abode in hidden valley to village drug. The west side of Division street is an obstacle course…a mine field of potential slip and fall sites…from the high school right on down to the drug store. Bierman funeral home has twenty feet of wet glare ice on their front sidewalk…are they trying to create some new customers? A great situation for those visiting that business. Many private residences have not been shoveled…sidewalks adjacent to intersections are iced up.

    Yesterday I walked in the other direction to Cub. Heritage dental clinic…glare ice. Community Bank…glare ice. Target…glare ice.

    I can’t believe that these businesses and home owners get by with this.

    February 27, 2008
  15. Marcea said:


    I walk all over town too, and totally agree with you. Washington St. between 7th and 4th street on the east side have a lot of spots I really think have never been shoveled at all this winter.

    February 27, 2008
  16. Philip Spensley said:

    As I commented in response to the energy conservation discussion elsewhere on Locally Grown, I believe we could solve the glare ice and snow obstacles downtown with the installation of a relatively small cigar shaped turbine at the dam site (without hindering a well designed kayak course) that could be connected to a sidewalk grid and used to melt the snow and ice on sidewalks downtown. Also could power streetlights…city installations…businesses for those who want to invest…there could be many uses…one small turbine, so I read, can power the equivalent of 300 homes. They are conceived for small river sites — like ours. Perhaps it is worth investigation by our alternate energy task force, or by the engineers at City Hall?

    February 27, 2008
  17. Anne Bretts said:

    Phillip, that’s a very creative solution. A more immediate and cost effective approach might be to require property owners to shovel within 24 hours. After that, the city plows — and bills the property owners for the service. It doesn’t take long to get compliance. And the city could generate revenue from owners who don’t want to do it themselves.

    February 27, 2008
  18. Julie Bixby said:

    Getting back to “Would Jessica Lange live in Northfield?”
    She didn’t like it that Stillwater became “yuppified”. With all due respect, where was Ms. Lange when Stillwater needed the revenue to continue to be a “small town” with ” small town appeal”? (If that is what she wanted)

    We would all like things a certain way. Are we willing to be a part, perhaps a
    significant part, of the dynamics that can create/sustain what we want – a small community, a large city or what have you? It is easy to say what we want, it is a whole other thing to MAKE what we want.

    For those of us who want to live in a community, such as Northfield, that has an “old fashioned”, vibrant, living downtown, what are we willing to do to sustain what we have? We have what many want. We also are fortunate enough to have organizations (NDDC, Chamber, EDA, NEC, not to mention all the businesses that are owned by real, local people-not corps) that work very hard to maintain a vibrant community. To all of these I say “Thank you!”.

    If we like what we have we need to nurture and support it. There are very fews things that cannot be gotten in Northfield.
    Stay in town, save gas, help the environment, help the community in which we live, shop Northfield!

    Perhaps, if Jessica Lange is looking for a small town atmosphere…


    February 27, 2008
  19. William Siemers said:

    Marcea, Ann, Phillip…
    I would think that there is an existing regulation that addresses snow removal on sidewalks…but that it is not being enforced.

    February 28, 2008
  20. William Siemers said:

    Tracy, Ross…
    Downtown Northfield has, as you know, many of those same kinds of businesses that Tracy enjoyed seeing in England. Real businesses serving peoples essential needs. My somewhat tongue in cheek point on zoning out additional candle sellers, was that too many businesses offering…hmmmm, let’s just say, ‘non-essential’, products will eventually change the character of a ‘working’ downtown. And then we will be lamenting the loss of what we already have. Maybe that is inevitable. I hope not.

    February 28, 2008
  21. Rob Hardy said:

    FYI (From the City Code):

    Sec. 70-2. Snow, ice or other obstacles on sidewalks.
    (a) Clean walks required. The owner or occupant of any real property within the city limits shall clean the sidewalks abutting the real property of snow and loose or melting ice within 12 hours after such snow or ice has ceased to be deposited; shall not place any rubbish, soil, brush, building materials, or other obstacles to pedestrian travel on such sidewalks; and shall remove any such obstacles found or placed thereon as soon as reasonably possible.

    February 28, 2008
  22. Steve Wilmot said:

    I believe it is too late for recruiting Jessica Lange, as she moved to River Falls, WI – a few mile east of Stillwater. I know this to be true because I read it in line at the grocery store check out! (downtown)

    As for the candle shops etc, these do change the character of a downtown and make it less “handy” for local errand running. This is a difficult topic because the economics lead people to propose having tour busses stop in Northfield. Tourists don’t need dry cleaners, pharmacists, hardware stores and the like, they look for candle shops, antique shops, etc.

    How to maintain a balance between tourism and regular shopping needs is a real puzzler.

    February 28, 2008
  23. Anne Bretts said:

    It would be interesting to have a team of citizen journalists, or volunteers, or whatever you want to call them, visit Stillwater, River Falls and a few other communities and see what’s working and what isn’t, and what kind of struggles they are facing. Hudson, WI, is another possibility, so is Hinckley. Maybe people could make suggestions of other similar towns and we could create a list of criteria to compare…I’m on the road a lot, so I volunteer to do some myself. My daughters went to college at River Falls, so I know that one and would be happy to go back. I also know Hudson and Stillwater from stories I’ve done, but I’ll be happy to tackle other cities instead.

    February 28, 2008
  24. Kay Namovich said:

    Hi, you don’t know me, and I don’t know Northfield, but stumbling on this site in search of info on Northfield, prompts me to write. Holland, Michigan has a wonderful, vibrant downtown with a snow melt system in the sidewalks. The major funding for the restoration of old buildings came from benevolent wealthy community people who cared enough to make sure our downtown wouldn’t die. We have a terrific mix of what locals need and what tourists want. We have interesting (as opposed to ordinary) clothing shops, shoe stores, restaurants, art galleries, a fantastic arts council, florists, interior design shops bookstores, drug store, card shop etc. It IS possible!

    March 3, 2008
  25. Ross Currier said:

    Hello Kay:

    We might not know you, but we do know Holland, Michigan. In addition to the well-heeled individuals that created the downtown investment pool, you had a brilliant and charismatic leader by the name of Gordon Van Wylen who was able to inspire those individuals to act.

    I was fortunate enough to hear him speak. Frankly, I drooled with jealousy when I saw all the wonderful and beautiful public parking that the City created to support downtown retail.

    For a brief summary, see: http://nddc.org/weblog/post/355/

    Thanks for contributing,


    March 3, 2008
  26. Jerry Bilek said:

    Great contribution Kay!

    here is a link to a video about Holland:

    The creation of quality public spaces adds to the economic vitality. We have the opportunity in Northfield. Imagine if Ames park were really a park or if Bridge square would be extended to connect to the riverwalk. It would invite economic activity.

    Does everyone in Holland MI where wooden shoes?

    March 3, 2008
  27. Kay Namovich said:

    Yes, Jerry, an extremely large quantity of wooden shoes are worn the second week of May every year when we celebrate Tulip Time. They are suprisingly comfortable. It’s a sight to see.

    And Ross, drool even more…we are looking at adding a parking ramp, because there is SO much downtown business that you can’t find a parking place when you need one! Here’s a link to the City of Holland Downtown Development Authority

    March 14, 2008

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