Recently when I was talking with someone about the role local business plays in creating a strong community, after a few moments of silence they responded with:
“It’s a small circle.”
At first, I took that statement at face value, thinking they meant the financial benefit of shopping local. You’ve heard the statistics — “‘when you shop locally, 68 cents of every dollar you spend stays in the local economy compared to 43 cents when you shop a chain store.”
But something about ‘it’s a small circle’ stuck with me. It was more personal. It implied a local business influence and positive impact on the entire community, not just an increase to the bottom line. It was a simple declaration of interconnectedness.
As I visited area businesses throughout the holiday season, I found the Southwest Minneapolis business community full of examples of this intricate social network.
When Julene Lind, owner of Nicollet Ace Hardware, talks about her business, her face lights up. She understands who her customer is and what they expect in assortment and service.
Not only does her business provide employment opportunity and life skills for young Minneapolitans, she gives back. Nicollet Ace Hardware donated funds to replace the slide at the Lyndale Community School. Why? “Because it’s our community school. The families are my customers and neighbors.”
Petersen Flowers, in business since 1989, has families who return every year to purchase their Christmas tree. This year, they sold out early, leaving three tall spruce tops propped against the building.
The next day when owner, Vicki Luedtke, opened the store, there stood a mother and daughter, waiting to buy a tree. When Vicki told them they were sold out, the daughter replied, “But we have to get our tree at Petersen’s — we do every year. And you have trees,” she said, pointing to the spruce tops.
The holiday tradition proved to be stronger than perfection. Shared experiences and customer loyalty like this are repeated daily with every single business.
“The shortest distance between the earth, the hand and the mouth.” This is a mantra that permeates everything Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann do at Wise Acre Eatery. With the focus on quality ingredients and support of sustainable agriculture, not only does this local eatery provide home-cooked vibrancy with a modern twist, its reach extends well beyond Southwest Minneapolis to Tangletown Farms, a 100-plus acre family farm located outside of Plato, Minn.
Southwest Minneapolis has become a destination for new businesses and that’s exciting. Northern Brewer owner Christopher Farley opened in the neighborhood based on the constant stream of Minneapolis customers at his St. Paul location. A year ago Jessica Reipke left Chicago to open the innovative HAUS Salon, enthusiastic about the future of Southwest Minneapolis. The optimism is contagious.
I firmly believe the role of local business in creating community is part of a larger social change. Two groups are gravitating toward the urban environment but for very different reasons.
Baby boomers want to simplify their lives but live in a neighborhood close to the amenities they’ve come to enjoy. Younger people have grown up in a world with a multicultural point of view. The opportunity and energy of the urban density becomes a perfect fit. To both, a vibrant local business community is an amenity just like our world-class park system.
The driving force in all of this is that very basic desire for a human connection — to connect is in our nature. It’s a small circle with a mighty big reach.
Matt Perry is currently the president of the Nicollet East Harriet Business Association and an East Harriet resident.