Lansing Hardware going out of business

Lansing HardwareDavid Lansing letter
David Lansing released a statement this afternoon about Lansing Hardware going out of business, effective May 1. A going-out-of-business sale starts this Saturday and he hopes “that some part of the store will continue to be part of the businesss community.”

Posted to the Nfld News website yesterday at 5pm: Lansing Hardware lawsuit settled.

An attorney for New Division Development Corp. and its principals, Beth Closner and Randy Lutz, confirmed late Tuesday that a settlement to his clients’ 2006 lawsuit is in the works. An agreement could be finalized by month’s end, said Minneapolis attorney Tom Harlan.

55 thoughts on “Lansing Hardware going out of business”

  1. No, Rob, it’s not April Fool’s day………It’s just Fools Day, and that includes all of us: those who have tried to speak up about the vicious dynamics ongoing in our city govt, those who have been afraid to speak up, those who have looked the other way, those who have not bothered to read the evidence as presented, those who have been apprehensive about asking questions, i.e. all the citizens who have not cared enough to take the extra time to try to find out what is going on.

    Of course, I know only too well that if you do try to speak to the issues you will get trashed as “a group of mean spirited people who are never satisfied with the answers”.

    Well, read the Everett reports, and use your critical thinking skills.
    Watch the Dec.17th and 22nd council meeting tapes and see if you agree with the right of the council to strip the Mayor of some of his prerogatives, although you(the council) does not have the right to UN-elect him.Listen to the council chambers being turned into a courtroom, although there has been no LEGAL wrongdoing of Mayor Lansing found as of yet, and may never be.
    Watch the closed meeting tapes from last summer, that the council withheld for 6-9 months, and, remembering that they had identified 600 Division as their preferred site for at least a year and a half, ask how it is that neither they, nor staff , nor city attorney spoke NOT ONE WORD in 4+ hours of tapes about conflict of interest.
    Ask how it is that a man , and his family, well known contributors to this community, can be “hounded” to the point that it is better to give up than continue.
    The closing of the hardware store MAY have been a fait accompli as soon as Menards came to Dundas; but the tragic trashing of a man and his family was not done by Menards.

    It was up to our own city council to make that happen, and they did.

    P. S. And yeah, I’m mad…..and sad….. Here’s the kicker: several years ago I said to Lee Lansing, and Kathy, “You know, this can be a very mean and vindictive town….” They both got mad at me, and said it wasn’t true; they had never experienced anything but the best in Northfield.

  2. Isn’t this a surprise??? This family has been an integral part of the fabric of Northfield for generations. We all
    should be ashamed of any role we might have played in
    their demise. Is there a lesson here about serving in a
    public office? First we smear them…then we crucify
    them…then we kill them. I have NEVER lived in such a
    vicious community & frankly I don’t know how much
    longer I wish to believe Northfield is such “a special
    place”. My heart goes out to the Lansing Family.

  3. Very sad – political forces are moving Northfield another step closer to the worst of suburbia. Lee and David have always been a great source of information and the products we need.

  4. Kiffi and David,

    I don’t see how your comments about “political forces” and “vicious dynamics” in Northfield have anything directly to do with Lansing Hardware closing. I see them as two separate issues that both happen to involve David and Lee Lansing. I don’t see a connection between the two, but I’m open to hearing a straightforward chain of causality between the two.

    Personally, I would like to be able to talk about events and politics in town without discussing them as part of a single titanic battle between forces of good and evil in which we must choose sides.

    Although I’ve never bought anything at Lansing Hardware (I went in once looking for some odd tool or another, but they didn’t have it), I am sad to see a downtown business close. I don’t pretend to understand the complex business interactions between the Lansings and New Division, and I am content to leave their business dealings to the courts to sort out. However, I thought the article suggests that the owners of the property have development plans for the property. Perhaps some new fine businesses that may brighten that end of downtown will come from this.

  5. I am going to agree with Patrick (#5), and say that yeah, there’s political squabbles going on. But is that really the reason they are going out of business?

  6. Check out their prices and you will see why they are going out of business! This has nothing to do with politics, but more so to do with business practices. Kifi (and others) should look into the lansing’s dealings with True Value and New Division before blaming the store closing on local politics. They were once the only (hardware) game in town so to speak. I haven’t been into their store since ACE Hardware opened. They ought to be ashamed and have no one to blame for their troubles but themselves.

  7. “They ought to be ashamed and have no one to blame for their troubles but themselves.”

    Will – you must sleep well on cheap Chinese goods from Target. We know you are not buying from Lansing or Jacobsens

    Patrick you can choose to see everything in the world as discreet and unrelated but that does not mean a relationship between exploited foreigners hating the US, war, subsided mega merchants flouishing crushing small merchants, failing downtowns and collasping real estate values does not exist.

  8. Patrick said

    Personally, I would like to be able to talk about events and politics in town without discussing them as part of a single titanic battle between forces of good and evil in which we must choose sides.

    Hear Hear!

    Gilly’s pretty wise for being so young, me thinks.

    It’s sad to see Lansings close. I remember there being several hardware stores downtown– don’t I? Coast to coast, true value, or is that the same…

    Lansings probably sold good made in china, if that adds anything to the discussion.

  9. David wrote,
    [blockquote]
    Patrick you can choose to see everything in the world as discreet and unrelated but that does not mean a relationship between exploited foreigners hating the US, war, subsided mega merchants flouishing crushing small merchants, failing downtowns and collasping real estate values does not exist.[/blockquote]

    Actually, I think we can have a conversation about turnover of Northfield businesses, and preserving the vitality of downtown, without having to spend a lot of time on “exploited foreigners hating the US” as a root cause of business turnover. Those global factors are not something that you or I can change in the immediate future, so I would prefer to focus on what’s going on here and now, and what we can or should do about it.

    My understanding is this: Lansing Hardware did not sell enough goods to cover its expenses, pay its rent, and turn a profit. The question is: to what extent should we let businesses evolve and flourish, or fail, on their own merits, and to what extent should we take collective or individual actions to encourage the success of particular businesses or types of businesses. This is a valuable conversation to have, and one that has been discussed fruitfully here in the past.

    Blaming global forces suggests that there is nothing we can do about it, and I do not think that is true.

    Blaming entire segments of our elected representatives, (and by extension, the people who support them) is also counterproductive, in that it drives away people who share your interest in preserving downtown, and whom you need to win over in order to enact any new public efforts to foster the continued vitality of our town.

  10. Patrick – Lansings has been there for 19 years, Jacobsens was there for 40 some years. Both were integral parts of Northfield as a community. Target has absolutely zero interest in Northfield being a unique place. Target purposefully isolates itself and pulls business away from downtown slowly collapsing small businesses. Target’s overt goal is to make Northfield exactly like every other suburb (at least the combined effect of chain retailers equals this goal). The mass retailer business model involves tremendous subsidies from both the local and national government … not to mention exploiting low wage workers in NON-DEMOCRATIC nations. Just today polls were released saying 80% of Americans think the country is making poor choices. I don’t know that we Northfielders face a showdown between good and evil but we do face a showdown between forces that are pushing a community homogenization policy vs forces who believe in a sense of community which has lots of room for businesses based on the vision of local folk verses corporate master planners. Make no mistake I personally have no interest in preserving “downtown” as an isolated museum, my interest is in all of “Northfield” being a unique and uniquely livable place. And I personally think Target, Cub and Menards as currently configured are huge strikes against being a uniquely livable place – the killing of Lansing Hardware is just one more casualty in an economic war that you want to deny is underway.

  11. This is a sad announcement for downtown business, but I can’t say I’m surprised. As a very frequent customer of Lansings over the last 15 years, I’ve noticed a distinct change in the atmosphere of the store over the last year or so. Out-of-stock items stayed unstocked, misplaced items stayed misplaced, aisles started looking disheveled, and it was a lot easier to walk through the store without being offered help. The place began to feel a bit like a patient who had lost the will to live. More and more a trip to Lansings meant a subsequent walk down to Ace for the thing Lansings didn’t have.

    Blame politics or economics if you like, but the recent management of the store was also a factor.

  12. David,

    I think you are misconstruing me as an enemy, when there is no need to think of me (and many others) as such.

    Patrick – Lansings has been there for 19 years, Jacobsens was there for 40 some years. Both were integral parts of Northfield as a community. Target has absolutely zero interest in Northfield being a unique place. Target purposefully isolates itself and pulls business away from downtown slowly collapsing small businesses. Target’s overt goal is to make Northfield exactly like every other suburb (at least the combined effect of chain retailers equals this goal). The mass retailer business model involves tremendous subsidies from both the local and national government … not to mention exploiting low wage workers in NON-DEMOCRATIC nations. Just today polls were released saying 80% of Americans think the country is making poor choices.

    I don’t disagree with any of this.

    I don’t know that we Northfielders face a showdown between good and evil but we do face a showdown between forces that are pushing a community homogenization policy vs forces who believe in a sense of community which has lots of room for businesses based on the vision of local folk verses corporate master planners. Make no mistake I personally have no interest in preserving “downtown” as an isolated museum, my interest is in all of “Northfield” being a unique and uniquely livable place. And I personally think Target, Cub and Menards as currently configured are huge strikes against being a uniquely livable place

    Again, I am in agreement with you.

    the killing of Lansing Hardware is just one more casualty in an economic war that you want to deny is underway.

    And I also agree that there is an economic conflict between the box stores and downtown businesses. But you have not said how exactly you think anyone “killed” Lansing Hardware.

    Here’s where we differ: you are accusing me and others of favoring box store businesses. You have not shown any way in which I (or others) have done so. What I have seen so far, is that you perceive that anyone who feels that the Mayor abused his office in an attempt to secure personal gain must also be in cahoots as part of some nebulous conspiracy to turn Northfield into an Apple Valley clone. And in that, you are quite mistaken. They are unrelated issues – unless you can layout, clearly and rationally, how the one follows from the other.

    If you can connect the dots, and identify particular pro-box-store / pro-sprawl / pro-unfettered-development policies or proposals, or any specific anti-downtown policies or proposals, you would find that it would be quite easy to motivate me, and many others like me, to support remedying those.

    Similarly, If you have any specific proposals for policies that would benefit downtown, I would be happy to hear those. I would love to support policies that will foster a continued vibrant, distinct town.

    However, blanket accusations against a perceived cabal of pro-sprawl phantoms is counterproductive. You need to be specific, and you need to offer points of action that we can consider.

  13. I am always fascinated by the idea that big boxes are bad, unless they are schools or churches or hospitals or soccer complexes. We face decisions of scale in every part of our lives.

    The economic issues are so much more complex than just banning Target. Americans are ‘losing ground’ because we were out of balance with the rest of the world and to bring things into balance we probably will continue losing for a long while while they catch up. It’s like saying we shouldn’t have enacted Title IX to force equality in sports because it would hurt men to have women finally get their share of the money, conveniently forgetting that men had received more than their share all along.

    I’m sure there’s an argument that without Target and the other Hwy 3 businesses to draw traffic to and through town that the downtown would be in far rougher shape than it is.

    Bottom line is that there are no easy answers to these questions, though they do feed interesting discussions.

  14. David:
    Take a notebook, pen and paper and walk the entire length of downtown. You won’t need expensive wayfinding signs to do this. Write down every store that you see. Pizza parlors, hair dressers, gift shops, insurance/real estate agents, etc. Target does not compete with a single one of these. I am willing to bet that the folks who shop for clothing/shoes at The Rare Pair are not buying their clothes at Target. The next thing you neeed to do is take a chance and venture outside of your comfort zone downtown area and go out to target. They have a display that informs it’s shoppers of the dollars they donate to the surrounding communities. Another suggested trip is go out to Cub Foods and try and find a parking spot on a Saturday or Sunday. Then, take a short walk out to Applebees and enjoy the wait for a table. The knuckleheads on the Planning Commision at the time saw to it that a larger eating establishment wsn’t built. BTW, I sleep very well on a mattress/boxspring bought at HOM Furniture, but thanks for your concern.

  15. Oh idealists…you make Northfield such a special place.

    Please refer to information that was posted in the Nfld.
    News about the property taxes and other taxes Lansing
    Hardware paid in the last 10 years (of 19). It was over $500,000 without the penalties. Now add payroll taxes, unemployment, FICA, surtaxes, sales tax, income taxes,
    business taxes, commercial property taxes, additional
    TIF agreements for the developer. Add unanticipated shipping costs, heating costs, utility costs. Add inventory, employees, payroll, insurance, hours of operation, advertising (in a local paper that betrays your
    personal struggles with developers who blow through
    money under the guise “development is great for this
    historic community”). Owners salary…oh no! “they OWN the business…they must have money!” Add civic duty & responsibility… time away from the business.

    Add a community where the majority believe they are
    entitled to request/demand/sanction any business
    that cannot or will not meet their demands. “I special ordered it but don’t need it…you won’t take this back after a year??…but I didn’t use it…I thought I needed it” or my personal favorite; “I changed my mind”…”oh should I have let you know???”

    When is it no longer worth continuing a business in
    this special place? The Lansing Family has paid a high
    price for running a business in Northfield.

    Please spare me comments about competition, the ‘State’, our great educational system, or any of the “special benefits” in Northfield. This community is a very very tough place to run a business. There is a perpetual anger over the fact that brains don’t pay as much as brawn. There is jealousy, vindictiveness, and
    too much entitlement. Rather than support new business
    BEFORE they leave town…Northfield spends money attracting new business predicated on the “specialness”
    of this community. I once had a customer ask me
    if Care Tenders was my idea. I said it was, to which she
    responded, “I wish I had thought of it. It must be a goldmine”. She never used the service again.

    Imagine…Menard’s as the only hardware store, Cub as the only grocery, Target & K-Mart as the only shopping spots beyond boutiquey shops, & Perkins/Applebees/
    Subway as the only restaurants. So unique for this “historical community”.

    \

  16. Not quibbling with you Griff, just making a point based on the discussions on other threads. I found the exchange above passionate and a little smart-alecky, but interesting and worthwhile. I was surprised when you ruled them over the line.
    Just shows the differences among us in our definition of what’s offensive.

  17. I’m not pro or anti Target, but would like to correct something Will said:

    “Write down every store that you see. Pizza parlors, hair dressers, gift shops, insurance/real estate agents, etc. Target does not compete with a single one of these. I am willing to bet that the folks who shop for clothing/shoes at The Rare Pair are not buying their clothes at Target. The next thing you neeed to do is take a chance and venture outside of your comfort zone downtown area and go out to target. They have a display that informs it’s shoppers of the dollars they donate to the surrounding communities.”

    I do compete with Target. Only in the book and DVD dept. I check their prices to see if I am competitive, I am. Sometimes I am lower, sometimes they are. I don’t match their prices and they don’t match mine or my selection. I won’t talk about service.

    Yes, Target donates a lot of cash. I get a lot of donation requests as well. I give to as many as I can. What hurts is when the request comes from someone who comments,”I’ve never been in here, I shop at Target.” I ask if they asked Target for a donation and they say no they won’t do it. I still give them something, but wonder how can you expect me to be here to donate when you admittedly shop at my competitor.

  18. And the excellent, personalized service – and ever-changing selection – at Jerry’s is why we buy our books there, and not at Target.

  19. Jerry, I like your bestsellers table. That’s where I got this book I’m reading called “This is Your Brain on Music” by Levitin!

    There were a lot of good choices on your table, and there was a great book about the North Stars that is still calling me! My mother used to take us to the Stars games because she had students whose parents were players… long story. I’m not all that into hockey… but I’d recognize Gordie Howe in an instant.

    By the way, you don’t have to know anything about music to enjoy this book I’m reading. Levitin gives lines from songs and that is how he explains musical reltationship.

  20. Yes, unfortunately some in this town can be mean and vicious. I experienced that a few years ago and my feelings for the town have never recovered. Since I was born here and had deep ties to the town, I was so excited to move back here 13 years ago. But if I had to do it over again I would not.

    I still can’t believe that people I had in my home, people I fed and entertained, were so terrible to my family. I’m sad that Lee and Kathy and their family had to experience this.

  21. Will Thomas (#4), may your compassion be repaid bountifully in this life and the next. There’s armchair quarterbacking, and then there’s just plain mean.

    There is practical merit to quitting while you are ahead; there is also merit to holding on to something for love, if you have a soul at least.

    People have been whispering that “there’s nothing downtown” long before there was nothing downtown. Lansings’ having located in the unused former D&P Chevrolet building was a move that entailed considerable risk. Providing a south anchor for traditional downtown, this was a check against the attrition of pedestrian businesses south of the scented-candle district. With an ever greater share of everyday business traffic INTENTIONALLY siphoned off toward south 3 corridor, how much more quickly would we have lost the retail core if Lansings had stayed put in River Park Mall, or joined the exodus to developoland?

    There are no doubt many reasons, all impossibly intertwined, why after a measly nineteen years the business could not be continued at that location. A dearth of smug, judgmental, kick-you-while you’re-down, I-told-you-so nattering is most probably not one of them.

  22. Regardless if it’s due to economics, management or politics, I, too, miss the Lansing’s of old, where you could find quality items and get some expert advice and friendly service to boot – something you couldn’t find too often. Downtown will certainly not look the same this spring and summer without Lansing’s artful array of flowers and plants. Lansing’s and Jacobsen’s offered us, mere strangers, unbelievably warm welcomes when we moved to town nine years ago. Lee and David, thanks for putting up a good fight for so long and for all the great service over the years. Downtown will survive, but it certainly won’t be quite the same. I hope you aren’t away from downtown too long.

  23. In most cases we don’t like to see businesses fail. But it happens…and for many of the reasons mentioned in this thread. Although, I don’t think disagreements between mayors and city councils generally cause failures. It seems, in this case, the stated cause was a settlement agreement arising out of a lawsuit between the Lansings and New Division.

    We can look beyond that cause but that’s just conjecture. It seems to me the stated cause probably reflects reality better than the unstated. I only know what I read in the papers…but lawsuits…judgments for rent…court ordered evictions..etc., seemed to be the basis for this business relationship.
    Is it any wonder it failed and took the hardware store with it?

    Local, small, hardware stores thrive all over the country. They have to provide great service, stock smartly, be convenient, have reasonable prices…and usually be a part of some national buying network. That’s not to say that there can be two such stores within a block of each other…but that is competition. And yup, competition is economic war.

    Regarding big boxes/chains versus Mom and Pops: Mom and Pop have to do what the big boxes don’t do. Otherwise they are doomed. They are doomed because most people have to watch every penny they spend and those folks WILL vote with their feet. I do not begrudge them that decision. Their primary concern must be their own, and their family’s, economic well being.

  24. Lila Allen posted an interesting suggestion on Northfield News:

    I think Lansing Hardware store would be a good site for the liquor store there is good parking space,and it would save the city alot of money instead of building a new store.

    I think she has a point, and it hasn’t been considered before – since it wasn’t available. Why not rent the space like any other tenant would?

  25. This is the ultimate irony……. The site that could NOT be considered for a liquor store because although sold to Lutz/Closner several years ago and rented back to the Mayor’s family was “a conflict of interest”, as announced by the city admin to the council at a Feb’07 meeting………. but now could be considered…………..

    The Tires Plus site was loudly claimed by some public as just the way for the Mayor to “make a million dollars at the city’s expense”, and yet although “conflict of interest” was all over the more private discussion, the council identified that site as their preferred one for at least a year and a half, and in the now released closed meeting tapes, there is not even One word in 4+ hours from the council, the admin, the city attrny, as to a possible conflict of interest on that site; it is finally rejected as not a good financial structure, although the negotiator says he has not had time to have his final meeting with the developer, but tells the council repeatedly “there is room for movement” (meaning on the developer’s part)……………

    The tapes are withheld by the council for 6-7 months, and then by the developer contingent upon review; then in Feb/early Mar?, just a few weeks ago, a resolution comes to formally reject the TiresPlus site(that had never been done), and restart site selection…………

    And now there are suggestions from the public that 618 Division would be a good site, and it would, but in the meantime…………..

    This controversy/ subject has torn the politics of Northfield apart.

    What a book this would make for a good public policy reasearcher; Dale Maharidge, where are you? Ask the Columbia School of Journalism for a sabbatical!

  26. Sad public policy, we lose a hardware store, we lose a really nice development and we have to suffer a bigger liquor store in the old hardware store.

  27. William- I really appreciate your observations and comments. It is always good to hear from a realist, and I concur with all you said. It is indeed very sad to see anyone fail, but I’m reminded of Eccl. 9:11- “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the warrior, nor is bread to the wise, nor is recognition to men of understanding, for time and circumstance overtake them all.”

    For those who who seem feel there is a conspiracy against the Lansings, I found this quote in an article about Feminism, of all things, on a web site http:///www.mercator.com/. I thought it was a good observation, even though many of you might not agree. The strong words are the authors, not mine, but I agree with the underlying philosophy.

    “The second element I bring to the subject is the fact that I am a Jew, and grew up at a moment of expanding acceptance of Jews as social equals, a direct result of the world’s sympathy for Jews following the Holocaust.

    Because of my people’s unique history, I am instinctively wary of any group – whether a race, an ethnic group, a religion or a sex – that plays a dualistic hand, scapegoating an entire group to explain the unachieved goals of its own members. For a scapegoating ideology always ends in grievance-collecting and a conspiracy theory of history. My people has been unusually vulnerable to conspiracy theory evils over the centuries. It is presently in the midst of battling a particularly destructive and existentially threatening one.

    Virtually all Arab and many other Muslim nations rely on Jew hatred to externalize an explanation for their own failures. It works very well. The world has not seen such a widespread and virulent strain of anti-Semitism dominating an entire region since the Nazi era. So I can say with the conviction bred of close scrutiny that I have no use for blame-laying ideologies of any kind.”

  28. a dualistic hand

    scapegoating an entire group

    Virtually all Arab and many other Muslim nations rely on Jew hatred to externalize an explanation for their own failures

    hmmm ….

  29. John (post #29),
    If I had known this was going to become a blog on Palestinian-Israeli (or Arab- Jewish) issues I would have brought out the Norman Finkelstein quotes. John, your analogy has no bearing on this issue at all. Your subject matter is inappropriate for a discussion on Lansing Hardware and I would encourage you to visit another blog for this. Unless you wish talk about the apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, let’s drop the Middle East talk from this discussion.

  30. John, I did not know which quote you were referring to from the Mercator site.
    Furthermore, I apologize for the lack of respect shown to you. Though not Jewish myself, I have a family member who spent time in the camps and know of the great sadness the Holocaust brought to the people up to and including to this very day. We should be reminded of it every so often so that it does not happen again and so that we remain knowing of our many blessings, even the poorest and most ill amongst us have it better than the sorry world of Hitler and his followers created, with hopefully few exceptions.

    To Mayor Lansing and his family, I pray and hope all will end well and a new door opens to you this very day.

  31. Josh- Somehow, I think you didn’t read my second paragraph. Perhaps the issue I used for my analogy distracted from the underlying principle. Sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I feel you are projecting some things onto why I quoted this article that are not true. There have been some opinions in earlier posts that seemed to blame the Lansing Hardware failure on the political climate in Northfied. I just disagree with that opinion, and I view it as a scapegoat approach. This event is affected by many factors, some of which are beyond anyone’s control.

    Bright- I am not Jewish. The three paragraphs I quoted were by a Jewish author. Sorry I did not make that more clear. I have such a hard time getting the block-quotes function to work. I know that would have differentiated the article better.

    You also said,”To Mayor Lansing and his family, I pray and hope all will end well and a new door opens to you this very day.” Amen! I second that prayer!

  32. Several years ago there was a large political uproar in Northfield about moving the retail center out on highway 3 based around the then forecast outcome of hurting downtown businesses. Since the retail center was moved two core downtown businesses with a combined 69 years of operation have closed and one grocery store is missing. Is anyone really arguing no causality from this past political debate ? I don’t think this is an issue of conspiracy, scapegoating, secret cabals or masonic straw-men … if you like a downtown the choices made were bad … if you love Target & Applebys the choices were good. One impacted the other, period.

  33. Sorrry, again, John, I got to thinking maybe you were a Jew for Jesus, given what I know from your previous, Christian leaning, posts, but really I just didn’t mind the quotation marks as my reply might have been given at the low ebb of the afternoon, 2PM.

    Could you tell us a little bit more about the mercator .com reference as
    I had been unable to find where they located the article to which you referred. TIA.

  34. David- Your observations are good, but I’m not sure that the move of the retail center was rooted in city politics. There was definitely a political uproar over it, and there was a necessity for council and planning commission approval for the land to be developed as it was. I see this as a general retail tend across the country, not just here in Northfield. I don’t really agree with this trend, but I feel at a loss to be able to do anything substantive about it. I remember discussions at the time that if Northfield did not want this developement, then Dundas was ready and willing to accomodate the businesses. Can we sucessfully build a wall around our city and have life continue on? I don’t know. This is one of the factors I was referring to when I said there are things that affect businesses that are beyond our control. And, you are exactly correct, IMO, that the one decision impacted the other.

    Bright- No need to apologize. I’ll answer your questions privately, though.

  35. Just to set the historic record straight, the planning commission did NOT vote to develop Site A (land in NF’s urban expansion boundary designated for hightech business park) for the Target development. As a matter of fact, 5 of the 7 members left, including the chair who delivered a blistering speech to the council which had overridden the PC. The council’s action at that time put NF out of compliance with its own Comprehensive Plan for several months, until the council changed the comp plan to comply with the development. It is statutorially against the law to violate your own comp plan in that manner.

    The court case that followed was a test case for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is why they joined with an amicus brief. Their position was that a highway development that rivaled the downtown in the square footage of retail would eventually destroy the economics of the downtown.

    Thanks to the dedication of retailers like Bob Jacobsen and Lee Lansing, it took longer than the NTHP predicted, but it has happened. And John is correct in saying that it is a national trend. And yes, Dundas’s highway development has been a threat to our downtown, and WILL continue to be.

  36. Kiffi…Your first post attributed the Lansing failure to the recent political action against the mayor. Your latest post attributes it to a political action taken by the city council years ago. For arguments sake, I will agree with you, both times…to a degree.

    David H…I agree that there is some ‘causality’ from the consequences of the political debate with regard to business failure.

    But just consider that there may be other factors in play. And that these factors might be just as, or more, important than the political factors. Every business has not failed downtown…although Target offers a version of almost everything that can be purchased in downtown shops. Econo and Just Foods are open even though Cub is going great guns. Applebey’s lot is full while there are 7 or 8 downtown eateries that seem to be hanging in there. In fact there are new businesses that have opened downtown. How can all this happen if the chains eat everything alive?

    Conversely…If Target were to close, would that be attributed to solely a vibrant, thriving downtown?

    There is much more going on here than politics.

  37. I have nothing against Target. I think Target staying closer in to downtown and conforming to the spirit of Northfield would have made more sense than shifting the retail center. I think all the big chains who rely on importing benefit from two huge subsidies.

    One: is the military is a big percentage of the US budget and is largely paid for through income tax. On a risk-benefit basis one would have to think a solid 50-75% of the military purpose if to secure energy resources (oil & gas). If these costs were accounted for by an energy tax rather than an income tax then Target’s business model would look very different.

    Two: a huge percentage of Target’s product comes from countries like China that are not democracies. Some argue that enriching dictatorships somehow makes them become open and liberal societies. I subscribe to the theory they just become rich dictators and rich dictators become very costly to society over time (see Iraq).

    I don’t know that these issues are beyond Northfield’s control – if every town & city used that as an excuse then we end up with a really warped society.

    The good news is the Internet is spawning new products and services so fast that “mass” merchandisers will be niched apart in short order. The bad news is no funky cool restaurants or condo renovations are going reuse the mass merchant shells when they vacate.

  38. Because the focus here is on a local retail economy, viewpoints tend to get skewed, and I am not pointing to anyone or any idea in particular. Small business is said to be 2/3 of the US economy, but not here in Northfield.
    I think most of the Northfielders work elsewhere, either virtually or out of town. I wonder if that would be a good poll to take.

    Anyway, the reason Iam posting is really to tell about how China is also going to be using our big ticket items, like GE’s commercial talks about the rural population of China falling in love with GE’s medical equipment…prolly one unit is worth a month of one Target store shopping totals.

    WalMart is even making an attempt to go green Fewer and fewer of it’s products are from China now and a thrust to buy local foods and goods is afoot.

    I don’t know why it’s still either/or, as in either Cubbies or Just Foodies. As it can easily be both/and as in both Tarjay, Presently We R Perfect, and Digs In, iykwim.

  39. Wm: I would agree that there is much more going on than just politics.
    In my first post I was expressing frustration with the way I think the political climate has impacted the Lansing business. In the second, I was just setting a historical perspective straight when John said the Planning Commission had approved the Target/Cub development.

    The larger perspective is the effect of people’s changed shopping habits, and more specifically the effect that has on the economics of a small town.

    We’ve talked about this on another thread, but the tax rates in the DT have gone sky-high. The tax bill on my/our 4K squarefootprint building on Division st. is just under $20,000. That means that the tax portion for EACH of the two commercial spaces is approx. $700. per month… just the tax portion, remember.

    One reason the taxes are so high downtown is that the assessor averages ALL the commercial property sales together, whether it’s a $350million commercial industrial property on south highway 3, or a $350 thousand small building downtown. That is just one part of the economic piece.

    Another part of the economic piece is that banks, medical offices, dentists, optometrists, when they need to improve their physical spaces, have difficulty finding creative ways to do that in the DT, so they all move south, and take a lot of volume of necessary daily trips out of the core. Some smaller franchise/corporate businesses (H.R.Block comes to mind) who were in the DT, are “forced” by their corporate bosses to relocate to the highway, as being the preferred “modern” location with the most traffic.

    It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And its all about SCALE.

    So it starts with a poor development decision, one that weakens the core of the community, and after years of struggle to innovate/respond to the changes, the more traditional business models start to fail. Then the stress of functioning in that battle mode, plus the added personal stress of a, IMHO, adversarial political process full of personal accusation, ridicule,and perceived not adjudicated blame, take a final toll.

    You’re right , WM., its a very complicated process. But why could we, Northfield, have not learned from the thousands of examples all over the country?

  40. Kiffi- I appreciate your perspective on the history of this trend toward big box developement. Also, thanks for setting the record straight on the Planning Commission. That was an assumpotion on my part, knowing that htese types of thing can’t proceed without the various government levels’ approval. I guess thing can proceed now and then without the process.

    As far as us learning from the experiences of other communities, do you have any stats on which communities have successfully fought this trend? I just don’t know of any. It appears that if there is anything we can learn, to quote a Star Trek line, resistance is futile. This doesn’t help the situation with the Lansings, but at least we may be in good company.

    I guess I do know of one city that has been successful in exerting a standard on all the developement in it- Sedona, AZ. If you have been there, you soon realize that every building in town is the same color red. It is designed to help the buildings blend into the surrounding landscape. It is even referred to as Sedona red. In fact, the McDonalds there is the only one in the country that does not have yellow arches on it. The city forced them to make them a sage green. Pretty good, huh?

  41. I am sorry to see Lansing’s leave. We built our new church facility in the part of town that many find trouble with per earlier conversations. Ironically we purchased many of our supplies from Lee and David, a locally owned downtown store rather than using Home Depot or Northfield Lumber(Stock Lumber) exclusively. The Lansings treated us with great care and we have continued to do business with them, even last week. I think that business is very voilitale right now, and everyone is holding their breath just hoping to make it through 2008 in the black. As I look at the changing face of Northfield I realize that some change is difficult, but in the long run it has little lasting effect on the greater community. I am more concerned about the hundreds of people who work for Northwest Airlines and live in Northfield. I can’t imagine how they are feeling right now. Before we forget, two of the biggest financial institutions in town now have a major presence outside of the downtown area. Who are we to decide what moves into a community or where they locate their business? I was sad to see Burger King leave; I knew the owner very well and he still lives in Faribault. In my previous congregation, I lived through the struggle of Heirloom Manufacturing closing their doors 5 years ago. The Mjeldes are wonderful people and they still live in Northfield. (Please remember Ray Mjelde in your thoughts and prayers as he goes through open heart surgery this week.) Lee and David and their families will recover, and Northfield will still be a wonderful place to live. Jacobsen’s has been closed for……??????…….. I am not sure, but the Sun still rises and the downtown parking congestion is just as bad (or maybe I should say as good) as it was then. Can we find fault with our government? Absolutely. I could tell you the difficulties that our church went through attempting to build in town. Ultimately we moved out of town and worked with Rice county who treated us with a sense of importance. I can also tell you stories about good government in Northfield. Towns need churches, downtowns need Churches, neighborhoods need churches, and cornfields in the country need churches. Northfield needs Lansing Hardware but it also needs Menards. Northfield needs Jacobsen’s but it also needs Target. Northfield needs Grundy’s but it also needs Arby’s. The beauty of America is diversity, not uniformity. I think my denomination is excellent, but I very happy for those who attend the Moravian church downtown. I hope they never leave, but what if they outgrow their building and property is just too expensive downtown? Maybe Lansing Hardware needs to move away from the Downtown. A community is about the people and not the location of where the people work or put out the open sign.
    Some of us love this community with great passion, yet the majority of our life has been somewhere else. Janet and I have now lived in Northfield 17 years and we hope that we can stay a little longer. The Bible says where there is no vision the people perish and cast off all restraint. A wise Pastor once told me, you could also say where there are no people the vision perishes.
    Northfield is wonderful because the people who live here make it wonderful!

  42. Joe: I am glad to see you rejoin a dialogue here. I as a non-religious person, have always felt that you are a fair and principled person, whose opinions I would listen to, as you have never tried to imply that others’ views are inherently wrong, just simply different.

    You are correct about the long term, Northfield WILL “be here” the question is, in what form, and is it the form we as residents desire.

    How much do we want to control our destiny? What is our responsibility to control our destiny?

  43. John George –

    Until recently, my parents lived in Alton Bay, New Hampshire. In the neighboring “big city” of Alton, there is a McDonald’s. It does not have yellow arches, in fact, it has no arches. It is a small, grey clapboard, colonial-style, house-like structure, complete with mullioned windows and wooden shutters.

    I do not think that Resistance is futile. I believe that finding, and learning from, alternative histories may the real challenge.

    Winning the struggle for architectural style is not enough, however. Many of the once-familiar local purveyors of lobster rolls are now gone and one of the last remaining options for this regionally popular item is the drive-thru of the little grey McDonald’s.

    – Ross

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