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Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home looks to make a move

If everything goes as planned Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home could have a home on either side of the Mississippi River.

Tim Taylor, Halvorson-Johnson owner, is looking at expanding into the former Photo Center building at the corner of Excelsior Road and Golf Course Drive in Baxter. The effort, Taylor said, is in the preliminary stages and the topic should be before Baxter’s planning and zoning commission Dec. 13.

Taylor said if all goes as planned for a conditional use permit, the Baxter building would become the Halvorson-Johnson Funeral and Cremation Center. The 4,000-square-foot building wouldn’t have a chapel but would have a gathering room and offer some of the latest in industry trends for the crematory services. The move would include remodeling with painting and carpeting and landscaping.

The Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home, which has long been part of the Brainerd community, would retain its business on Oak Street and continue to be available for formal services. But Taylor said for those age 35 and younger, times are changing for funeral services. Trends for the younger generations are now for a simple approach and cremations. Taylor said the new Baxter center would provide that approach. And, he said, it will give the business a presence in Baxter and the other side of the Mississippi River to reach people who aren’t coming back into Brainerd for such services. In addition, Taylor said the move will allow him to add his own crematorium.

More information on the planned expansion is expected following the Dec. 13 meeting in Baxter.

Halvorson-Johnson is hosting a Christmas open house from 2-5 p.m. Dec. 11 with coffee and cookies and keepsakes for the families it has served who lost a loved one this year. Taylor said it’s an opportunity for a social gathering at what can be an extremely hard time of year, the first Christmas after the death of a loved one.

Access North, which assists people with independent living with a host of services and with a branch office in Brainerd on East River Road, is moving into the former City Looks hair salon building on Northwest Fifth Street by Northern Pines Mental Health and not far from Grab-A-Java. The building, listed by Close-Converse Commercial and Preferred Properties, was recently sporting a sold sign. The move is expected in December.

Start to Finish Builders & Remodelers, Brainerd, recently celebrated 20 years in business. The business is owned by John Koupal. He purchased the business from Dave Peterson in 2009.

Costco, which if plans move forward for a warehouse member store in Baxter by Home Depot, expects to add 250 jobs to the area. Both full- and part-time employees get benefits. Baxter officials recently reported a full-time clerk who works with the company for four years makes $47,000. If all goes as planned,the store could open in the fall of 2012. It’s a buyer’s dream market, if everyone had the ability to sell their existing home or the financial resources to make the purchases. For every home that sells in Brainerd, 15 properties remain on the market, Edina Realty recently reported. The median sales price of a home in the Brainerd area dropped 9 percent and is now at $154,425.

“The Brainerd housing market may be lagging behind the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington market, which was recently ranked the top healthiest market in the nation — but there’s still plenty in the local market to be thankful for this November,” Edina Realty reported with data collected from the Greater Lakes Association of Realtors. “The Brainerd housing market is plodding along on its slow, steady road to recovery as the number of homes for sale decreased and closed home sales increased. Closed home sales were up 9 percent over last October; all told, 206 properties closed last month compared to 189 a year ago.

“Homebuyers are steadily working through the inventory of homes for sale in Brainerd. Overall, active listings were down 11 percent and new listings were up 2 percent. The month’s supply of housing has dropped to 16.8 months from 19.3 months, meaning that it would take 16.8 months for the existing inventory to be sold at the current rate of sales.”

Little Falls-based Larson Boats reported it launched a new website to get a massive amount information for its customers and dealers, Mike O’Connell, executive vice president and chief operations officer of Larson Boat Group, said in a news release.

As is the trend, the company reported it is including more social media connections and will work with smartphones and iPads.

Little Falls Tractor Supply Co. opened its new store in Little Falls about a week ago. The store currently employs 13 full- and part-time employees. Store Manager is Tom Schrieber. Tractor Supply Co. reports it is the “largest retail farm and ranch supply store chain in the United States and has been operating in Minnesota since 1946.”

The 24,000-square-foot Tractor Supply store is in the former Walmart space at 1800 First Ave. Northeast, Suite 101, in Little Falls. The store has a sales floor and support service space. Tractor Supply Co. reported the fenced exterior space offers a display area for items such as fencing, sprayers and livestock equipment.

A grand opening is planned early next month.

Tractor Supply Company operates more than 1,000 stores in 44 states and reports its stores are “focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers” and serves “maintenance needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses.”

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at or 855-5852. Follow on Twitter @Dispatchbizbuzz.