Biz Buzz: Another year in the rearview

A lot has happened in the lakes area in 2022 with new businesses arriving and more to come and others closing their doors.

A worker on a platform atop a crane attaches a new business sign
A worker on a platform atop a crane attaches a new sign at JR's No. 19 on Aug. 17, 2022, on Washington Street in Brainerd.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the Feb. 4 print edition of the Brainerd Dispatch, but was inadvertently not published to the Brainerd Dispatch website.

A lot has happened on the business front in the last year in the Brainerd lakes area.

Hiring signs remain a mainstay, although nationally there have been rounds of layoffs as well. From all discussions with the state demographer, the hiring signs will be part of the landscape for a long time as the worker shortage continues as baby boomers retire every day.

The business landscape continues to change. Longtime restaurants, Northwind Grille in downtown Brainerd and the storied Sawmill Inn along Washington Street, remained closed, at least temporarily, depending on business sales. Both businesses posted statements they were closing or could not reopen because they couldn’t get the staff they needed.


The Sawmill Inn announced it was closing on Aug. 23, 2021, and the last listed Facebook post thanked customers for the years of service. Once known as Van’s Cafe, the Washington Street restaurant was established in 1908. My mom knew it from riding the bus through the city between Minneapolis from Cass Lake in the 1940s.

Another question comes regarding dining trends. Would inflation keep more people from eating out or are younger diners gravitating to the many fast food options in the greater community. How much has the ability to get food delivered from nearly all restaurants changed how people look at dining out, comfort, convenience or, after so much time at home, are they looking for the change of scenery and the event of going out?

More Biz Buzz:
Michaels hosts soft opening.
Visit Brainerd moved into the space vacated when Open City Thrift closed. A new store is opening in Downtown Brainerd and action is visible on Hobby Lobby in Baxter.
Michaels plans to have a regular staff of 16-19 depending on scheduling and store needs for its new small format store as the arts and crafts retailer joins the lakes area.

OfficeMax in Baxter also closed its doors in 2022.

In addition to some places closing, others found new locations.

North Central Medical Supply & Equipment opened its newly constructed facility on Isle Drive this winter in Baxter, leaving two locations in Brainerd. The business had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 25.

Others rebranded, like the former Boardwalk Bread and Bagel on Washington Street in Brainerd, later known as Brick House Pizza, which was again transformed into Jr’s No. 19 BBQ this past summer. The restaurant still offers specialty pizzas and cheesecake.

And new national chain stores were announced with Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods and Michaels. HomeGoods opened Nov. 19 in the former J.C. Penney store in Baxter. Hobby Lobby has not returned requests for updates on when it is opening in the other portion of the former J.C. Penney, 7352 Glory Road.


Michaels is working on transforming the former OfficeMax building next to Target in Baxter.

Construction continues on the site on Clearwater Road with anticipation of a spring opening.

Blaze Pizza opened along Highway 371 in Baxter along with a Wave Coin Laundry.

Victual, the super premium ice cream, specialty foods and gifts retailer expanding on West Main Street in Crosby, earned 2022 Retailer of the Year honors.

Among properties recently sold by Close Converse are Carlson Hardware in Nisswa, Headwaters restaurant building in Hackensack, Unclaimed Freight in Aitkin, Custom Maid commercial cleaning in Brainerd, and the 612 Station with new owners in downtown Brainerd.

It’s not an exhaustive list. Other business ventures also joined lakes area communities.

And spring and an influx of the tourism season and the optimism that arrives with warmer breezes is just around the corner.

RENEE RICHARDSON, Brainerd Dispatch managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
What To Read Next
Get Local