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Biz Buzz: What if?

What if?

Thoughts on transforming downtown Brainerd

If long-time downtown Brainerd business owner Rhonda Smith won the lottery, she has a good idea of what she could do with all those funds.

For Smith, an advocate of healthy downtowns, the lottery win would give her the option to buy up all of downtown Brainerd.

She’d put in a jazz club in the third floor ballroom of the Menk Building on Laurel Street. The second floor, where offices were once filled with various professionals, would be transformed into shops along the lines of what was done at Franklin Arts Center.

Smith would like to see boutique clothing stores, a shoe store, a restaurant, all downtown. She’d add valet parking or look into the long talked about parking ramp.

She’d add a soda fountain, a part of downtowns across America a generation ago.

“I’d love to see some of that stuff revisited so people get that old nostalgic feeling,” she said.

With the popularity of all things vintage, Smith said she’d like to create a feeling of stepping back in time for downtown Brainerd. It would be a move to perhaps simpler days when a couple of bucks could buy a good burger and a soda.

Smith said: “It would be cool to see some of that stuff happen.”

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

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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