Barnesville – Town of the Year
Blending the Old with the New
BARNESVILLE, MN – The last Show and Shine Car Show of the season brings some people out to Front Street on a Thursday night
In a normal year the streets in Barnesville, Minnesota would have been filled the last weekend in August for Potato Days and the Clay County Fairgrounds would have a midway and be filled with fair goers in July. This year the grand stand sits empty and the fair grounds remain quiet because of the pandemic. And while Front Street isn’t packed with lefse and French Fries things are happening in this town of just over 2,600.
Mayor Jason Rick said, “The city invested some money about 10 years ago on Front Street here along with the county. That’s why you see the new sidewalks, decorative concrete and some of the face lifts down here so. It’s done really well.”
Business is picking up in this western Minnesota town. Stoneridge Software in downtown Barnesville is on Inc’s 5000 fastest growing companies list and has around 200 employees. The Purple Goose restaurant has opened up just down the street another enterprise by Stoneridge Software owner Eric Newell who thought Barnesville was in need of a more upscale dining location.
The hardware and drug store have seen sales increase during the pandemic as people choose to stay closer to home to get what they need. And sometimes what they need is really right next door.
“A lot of people will come here and say that they couldn’t get it in Fargo and we got it here. So, try Barnesville. Try Barnesville Drug,” said Jenni Hoppi of Barnesville Hardware and Drug Store.
Across the street is the Eagle Cafe, a staple in town for years. It serves as a gathering spot in town. And here we found more Barnesville pride.
“The feeling whenever I’m out of town and I drive into Main Street, I have a peaceful safe feeling. Like at Christmas you drive home and it’s joy, it’s just peaceful and joyful here,” said local Gloria Lee.
Erin Voyum chose Barnesville to open her own beauty Salon. March was the grand opening and then the pandemic hit and she was forced to close. When the re-opened she found some benefits in the new way business has to be done in a Pandemic.
Voyum said, “You notice it’s seems more one on one, we’re not having a lot of traffic all the time and you get to spend time with your guests and not having them bring friends and family. So it’s been really nice to just kinda have a little bit more quiet. It’s been, um, it’s been more calm.”
And the city tries to use its stock of historic buildings to fit new businesses
“Some of the businesses that have wanted to come here they have asked ‘Can you re-do this structure and make it so our business can be on Front Street?’ and that’s what we’ve done,” said Mayor Rick.
And while the buildings are old they are set up for the 21st century.
“We do fiber to the parcel um so it’s not shared fiber. So we have the self-healing fiber ring around the community. It’s a great advantage for businesses that might need to take advantage of the internet,” said Karen Lauer with the Barnesville Economic Development Association
When I-94 was built in the 1970’s, businesses in downtown Barnesville took a hit as people began doing more of their shopping in Fargo. Now that same highway is pumping new life into this town.
“Families with the young kids moving out of the bigger cities coming to a small town so you can walk, we got bike paths now we’re getting a $28 million school upgrades, new facilities. So that is attracting people to move here. So that’s where the growth is coming. We’ve got 14 homes that we are building right now in a new development in the 2nd addition which is built out and the 3rd addition will be ready to go for spring,” said Mayor Rick.
Blue Eagle Park built in the 1930’s is right near the new development. With its swimming and recreation just a short bike ride away. It’s just one more way this town blends the old with the new