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Biz Buzz: A changing business landscape

Burger King in Baxter put up a closed sign last week. Matt Erickson / Brainerd Dispatch. 1 / 2
Senior Patron's restaurant recently opened in the former TJ's Log Cabin, on Seventh Street in Downtown Brainerd.2 / 2

Change continues to be a constant.

Just this week, the lakes area learned it is losing its second major department store with Herberger's leaving and J.C. Penney already gone. It represents the last large department store in Brainerd and highlights a real and major shift in the American consumer. Something that wouldn't have been considered not that long ago when passing the Herberger's cosmetics counter or browsing through row after row of merchandise.

For the malls that are seeing these Bon-Ton stores close across the country, there will be a lot of economic soul-searching about how these major mall anchors are replaced and just what will be moving into such expansive square footage or if that means a breaking up of the anchor spots into smaller store options. And, then, what does that mean for the other stores already in the mall who set up shop with the draw of the mall anchor stores part of the equation?

As people adjust to the news—feel a loss from a long association with a store as a shopper, check for unredeemed gift cards or are faced with the loss of a job they've had for decades and the uncertainty and stress that comes with that life change—there is helpful history to fall back upon. Lakes area communities have weathered significant shifts in industries before and the job market is strong, providing options for people displaced with recent closings—not that it makes it easy to shift from a job people have known for any length of time or change careers—but there are options now that didn't exist with the hardscrabble Great Recession years.

"It is always a loss to our area economy when a business closes that currently operates locally and employs residents of our community," said Sheila Haverkamp, Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. executive director, in response to the Herberger's news. "Employment displacement is often devastating to a family. Hopefully, employees will have new opportunities in our community with many companies looking for talent. Also, BLAEDC's Key Recruitment Program would offer our services to employees if it would be beneficial.

"Efforts continue to try and attract new retailers to the area and have been successful with projects such as Dick's Sporting Goods, PetSmart, Gander Outdoors etc. We also know that retail is changing and the long-term impact to communities across the USA will be felt. BLAEDC and others are starting to study what we can do to plan for property reuse opportunities. Examples of this would be the former East Brainerd Mall J.C. Penney and Pamida buildings that now house Ascensus — a company with approximately 500 employees in the Brainerd lakes area."

Burger King in Baxter also put up a sign last week saying it was closed. Customers were first told there was an equipment problem forcing a limited menu to be followed by a closed sign the next day. The taxpayer of record is Brainerd Enterprises LLP, which has a residential address in Rochester.

Senor Patron's restaurant recently opened in the former TJ's Log Cabin, on Seventh Street in Downtown Brainerd.