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Biz Buzz: Totally Kidz Shop to close after 15-year run. Olive Garden bows out with strong customer reaction

Totally Kidz Shop on Front Street in downtown Brainerd is going out of business. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 3
Children's toys, clothes and books fill the Totally Kidz Shop in downtown Brainerd. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 3
A hiring sign remained outside the Olive Garden restaurant in Baxter last week after the news was confirmed the restaurant was closing. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 3

Totally Kidz Shop, a downtown Brainerd mainstay, is going out of business.

Shop owner Cindy Rausch has called downtown home for nearly 15 years, often working six and seven days a week. She converted the store to solely work with new inventory last year, but said the sales just haven't been there to support staying open.

Last August, Rausch noted the influx of online garage sale sites and the time and effort with the used inventory as part of her decision to do away with all the used products and convert the store to one with all new inventory geared toward kids.

Friday, March 29, Rausch noted last summer's South Sixth Street construction project pretty much killed her sales for 2018.

"My youngest two children graduated in 2018 and haven't been able to help out at the shop as much, so I was feeling overwhelmed with the workload of the used so last fall, I decided to convert to new inventory," Rausch said.

In an email she noted her Christmas sales weren't even close to those in 2015 and then this spring, when sales are typically up with everyone getting tax refunds, there have been many days without anyone in.

"As much as I hated the thought of closing, I just couldn't deal with the financial stress. I work nights and really need something on the side that makes me an income, not a financial stress," Rausch wrote. "So I decided it was time to close. I will have owned Totally Kidz for 15 years Aug. 24 this year. It's hard to let go, 'cause I feel I've been a familiar face in downtown and I really hope some fellow business owners will allow me to come in and help them from time to time, especially events.

"When Kevin Matthews from Kevin Matthews Pottery and I started the Halloween Trick or Treating Spooktacular event, we had 35 kids that first year. It has grown to over 700 kids this past year. And of course the Downtown Facebook was another thing I started to help businesses have a place to put events and have spotlight about their business from time to time. It was very hard for me to decide that closing the doors was what I needed to do, but now I have accepted it and plan to keep focused on all the free time I will have to enjoy my granddaughters!"

Rausch reported she plans to be open through the summer with a tentative closing date after Streetfest this summer and marking her 15-year anniversary.

The Brainerd Community Job Fair, which is free and open to students and the general public, is planned 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 3 at Central Lakes College. The event is sponsored by Central Lakes College, Hubbard Broadcasting, Brainerd Dispatch and Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program.

Serenity Design will open a second location in the Brainerd-Baxter area. Serenity Design, a St. Cloud family-owned and operated cabinetry and custom woodwork business, reported it is opening a second showroom in the lakes area with a grand opening planned June 1.

The business reports it uses reclaimed and salvaged wood to create custom home furnishings, cabinetry and unique interior design elements.

In the news release, Jen Carlson, Serenity Design's business director, said the "new showroom will offer greater convenience to the company's growing client base in the Brainerd-Baxter area."

"Together with our owner Chad Peda, we decided that Brainerd would be a perfect location for a second showroom, since the area really encapsulates and celebrates the natural beauty of Minnesota that we try to incorporate in all our work," Carlson stated.

The company plans to offer refreshments and have a drawing for a Green Mountain Grill at the grand opening. People need to register for the drawing by May 31 at the company's website.

Olive Garden had lines of customers as lovers of the restaurant's American-Italian food tried to get a taste before the restaurant closes April 1. Sadly, for the restaurant, the rush of business—as people waited to be seated last week and left the restaurant with large to-go bags—was a sign of Olive Garden's appeal in the area, but apparently the customer base wasn't providing the revenue the company expected.

One customer last week learned the news of the closing as he was picking up a to-go order and appeared stunned by the thought. Olive Garden is serving customers through Sunday, March 31, as the last day of operations. Jerid Courneya, director of operations at the Baxter restaurant, said the reason for the closure came because they thought "the trade area was just not where we wanted it to be, so we are going to be closing."

On Facebook, a couple of employees reported they would be moving to St. Cloud to transfer to the Olive Garden there. Others reported they were looking for work and employers in the area, including restaurants, noted they were hiring.

Now the question will be what restaurant may be interested in moving in as there have been several in the recent past looking for prime locations, including Panera. Recent conversations on the subject noted the lakes area has a number of places to go as customers may be looking for that experience that doesn't include a chain. But it was clear last week, that customers did appreciate the fare at Olive Garden even if they weren't in the numbers corporate officials wanted to see.

Midwest Recycling Solutions at the Brainerd Industrial Center, the former paper mill in northeast Brainerd, reported it will begin an expansion into processing mattresses and construction/demolition debris and other items effective immediately.

The Brainerd Industrial Center, 1801 Mill Ave., will be a drop-off site for commercial and residential mattresses, major appliances, construction and demolition material, furniture, yard debris and cardboard. Midwest Recycling Solutions noted a fee will be collected for items.

Renee Richardson

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