Tricounty News

From the Heart: We'll miss them when they're gone

I've heard for years now how much people miss having their own hardware store in Kimball. But there wasn't enough business to keep it going here. It moved 8 miles south to Kingston, and is doing okay because it's merged with other businesses (now known as Arne's Enterprises) next door to the owner's home. This month, two more businesses in Kimball will close, albeit for different reasons. Kimball Bargain Buys, which opened as a new business two years ago, will close at the end of summer. Increasing freight costs contributed to the business' demise. But a major reason it's closing is that local business was not enough to sustain it. They were plenty busy on weekends with drive-through traffic - people passing through Kimball on their way somewhere else. But weekdays were pretty dead. So far as I can tell, people are still driving to St. Cloud for just about everything. And what I don't understand is that the price of gas doesn't seem to have changed that much. It's hard enough for unique, small businesses to "make it" in small towns. But when locals don't shop locally or use local services, it's downright impossible.  The other business about to fade away is Stanley's Family Restaurant. It used to be Swan's Cafe. Then Dale and Carlene Kirkpatrick bought it. It's been a great spot for a quick home-cooked meal and a smile or two. After more than 40 years in the restaurant business, and working 17-hour days, Dale is retiring. Can't blame him a bit. Two weeks ago the restaurant and the land it sits on went up for auction. There were some possibilities, I've heard, of it being purchased and continued as a restaurant or a sports bar or something. But that didn't happen. Instead it may become a showroom for alternative energy (like solar panels). That will certainly be an interesting transformation. But, I have to say, it just won't be the same. Traffic in that little corner of Kimball will certainly be different.  I keep remembering what happened in Watkins, though. They used to have two car dealerships. Everyone thought it was hard to have the competition. Not too many years after one dealer closed his doors, the other did too. Now Watkins has no car dealers.  Competition is good. So is doing business locally.   There are several of us working very hard to create a plan - a vision, if you will - of Kimball's future. We want it to grow strong and thrive. But we can't make that happen with only a council, city employees, and a planning committee. It takes you too. Next time you feel an urge to drive somewhere for something, ask yourself first if it can be had in Kimball - or Watkins, or South Haven, or ... you get the idea. Local business means local jobs, local taxes, local donations, and a stronger future for us all.