The results are in from our reader survey of responses to the question "What kinds of businesses would people like to see in downtown Decorah?"
We will post each and every one of those comments at the bottom of this news story, but here is a summary:
Decorah residents are hungry.
How else to explain how food dominated the answers of readers about what they'd like to see open. "A really good bakery" was a popular answer--and readers got specific: "Not an imitation of a supermarket bakery, but one that people will drive out of their way to visit, like Jaarsma's in Pella." "A good butcher shop" was another popular answer, with Pella mentioned again.
Northeast Iowans have wide-ranging tastes: "Gourmet pizza by the slice," "a creperie," "an Indian restaurant," "a bagel shop" and "an Italian restaurant" were all among the wish list of Decorah area residents.
Two of the suggestions struck us as having the most merit.
One reader suggested: "The Energy Store" filled with everything one needs for an efficient home or business. Includes installer for home energy systems. Decorah is ready for this!"
Another reader wants an outdoor outfitters store, with "Guns, Ammunition, Fishing Rods/tackle, fishing and hunting guide service, conceal and carry classes, hunter safety, trap shooting, outdoor clothing, etc. "
Now, here are all the comments we received:
--"The Energy Store" filled with everything one needs for an efficient home or business. Includes installer for home energy systems. Decorah is ready for this.
--Outdoor Outfitters Store - Guns, Ammunition, Fishing Rods/tackle, fishing and hunting guide service, conceal and carry classes, hunter safety, trap shooting, outdoor clothing etc.
--A gun supply & outfitter store
--A really good bakery is needed
--A destination bakery is needed. Not an imitation of a supermarket bakery, but one that people will drive out of their way to visit. For example, Jaarsma's in Pella.
--A good, all-purpose bakery
--A good butcher shop. Lanesboro has a good one as well as Pella. Meat sticks and those kind of specialties.
--A meat, cheese, and wine shop.
--A restaurant featuring Scandinavian food. The Norse Nook in Wisconsin would be a good model.
--Gourmet pizza by the slice
--An Indian restaurant
--I've heard several people over the years wish there was a bagel shop in town. Perhaps one that also sold fresh baked loaves of various breads.
--I've also heard people wish for an Italian restaurant (similar to Olive Garden fare).
--Expand Coop and Expand Rubaiyat
--Another restauraunt -- perhaps Pasta and Pie, or Seafood and Soup
--Maid-Rite, Dairy-Queen, Hardies, KFC
--A salad bar type of restaurant (probably too small a town to support).
--Probably saturated with food and clothes…. Maybe frozen yogurt? But food is pretty saturated…
--Additional assisted living apartments
--We were just out of town and experienced a "splash park". It was next to a park, unattended and was FREE! Lots of fun for kids and safer than the pool.
--I'd appreciate a business that would provide items for those that would rather not shop at Wall-mart. I think a business, much like the old Pamida that was in Decorah years ago, would be a valuable service for those that would rather shop downtown.
--A repair shop for small appliances, with a cobbler and tailor on staff.
--A Kayak shop promoting activity on the river
--Barcade (bar + arcade)
--Scandinavian specialty -- clothing, gifts, jewelry
--An Antique Mall
--An indoor playground! (Perhaps not suitable for a downtown space, would probably need a larger space...but still something to consider) ;)
--Grocery stores that deliver & take Computer orders
--Tobacco Outlet- Pipes, American hand rolled cigars, American grown tobacco
--American made store- clothing, tools and anything made in America.
--A used book store would be nice.
--Plus size clothing for women
--Bed and bath shop
--More crafty type stores – a better paint your own pottery – like http://hotplatepottery.com/
--a bead store – like http://www.athensbeadsandthings.com/
--Possible community space where craft classes could be taught or craft parties held – for rent.
--How about a drive through at one of the three coffee shops?
--One thing missing are shops for men. Since men aren't great shoppers this is a problem and I wish I had the answer.
--Another men's clothing store for a little variety and competition.
--Dollar General Store
--A nice medium to higher end wine and spirits shop. We really enjoyed buying from the fellow on the east side of town near the old Haugen garage when he was in business.
--Another "Agora" type of shop would be great.
--A new barber to replace Dennis Smock.
--Barber shop (Dennis Smock is retiring)
--Dennis Smock's barber shop will be closing at the end of the month. This will result in another empty storefront. I'd like to see a new barber downtown, but I'm not going to hold my breath!
--An office supply store
--I'd like to see a store that sells a wide variety of trendy kids clothing for ages 4-14. Right now there are plenty of places to buy baby/toddler clothes and adult clothes, but the only places to get clothes for this age range are JCPenney and Wal Mart (and both have very limited options, especially for boys).
--A Chinese restaurant would be a great addition to downtown Decorah
--Shoe repair store
--A Capon processing plant, like Wapsie Produce back in town.
--A discount store
--A card/gift store
--A Conservative talk radio station
--We need an import store similar to Vanberia which is greatly missed and was my "go to store" whenever I needed the right birthday or wedding gift. Also many crafters who come to Vesterheim have trouble finding some of the items they needed locally for their projects.
--A craft factory that makes Nordic folk figures. It would sell primarily by catalog or internet but would have a manufacturing area enclosed by glass so it would be both a business and a tourist attraction. There is such a factory in Linsborg Kansas making Swedish wooden Horses.
My response would be to reduce the monthly amount of rent landlords are asking for downtown business space. It's matter of supply and demand. If landlords of downtown business space want to fill their empty spaces, reduce rent – that would be the quickest way to fill the empty storefronts downtown.
Scott says, "I would expand this conversation to include incentivizing the improvement of existing downtown locations. While many stores and dining establishments have extensively upgraded their spaces, often as a result of a move to that location, a lot of of our Decorah's downtown businesses and food establishments operate in very run-down conditions, as are many of the empty storefront locations. How do we encourage investment/upgrade of these locations? This should be equally considered to increase vibrancy and draw to the downtown."