Biz Buzz: Convenience and new eateries were buzz words for 2019

The "permanently closed" signs that once adorned the former Olive Garden restaurant are gone as El Tequila Mexican Restaurant is now open in the building as of late December. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Another year draws to a close.

As they tend to do these days, it went by fast and even stranger is the idea that a decade is gone and the 2020s are on the near event horizon. So as one year begins to fade into memory, here are a few business highlights.

If anything, this could have been the year of restaurants in the lakes area and of convenience for shoppers as online options for local shopping and delivery increased at nearly every turn.

For customer convenience, numerous stores added online shopping pickup parking and special pickup or checkout areas in store, from Kohl’s with its online pickup and Amazon return offerings to the newly remodeled Target with its online order pickup and now drive up service where staff will bring the items out to the car in the designated parking area. In some markets Target now has same-day delivery and, while that is not yet offered in the lakes area, Target reports it is expanding the additional service weekly.

Cub Foods recently announced it added grocery pickup to its offerings, as well as its established grocery delivery via Instacart, in as little as an hour or planned out and scheduled for convenience, along with grocery pickup. Customers shop online, and a personal shopper gathers the order. Customers park in a dedicated spot and never have to get out of the vehicle as the order is loaded for them. The service is provided at the Cub Food stores in Baxter and Brainerd.


Food Dudes and Door Dash provide food delivery services for restaurants with an expanding list of businesses that customers can now order from and have delivered. It was not that long ago that such as service meant pizza. Now the available menu list is expansive from fast food restaurants like McDonald’s to eateries like Cherry Berry and a host of sit-down restaurants and even Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza. Expect this service to continue to grow, which serves as a useful option for people who can’t leave work for lunch, and for seniors who want to eat in, and for busy households all around.

Residents and visitors also have more choices for dining with Chipotle, Firehouse Subs, and the addition of Five Guys. Olive Garden departed the area, but El Tequila Mexican Restaurant found a new home in the former Olive Garden building in Baxter, which will increase its visibility in the area.

Work continues on the transformation of the former Herberger’s store into an Ashley Furniture business in the Westgate Mall. A shell around the store is giving working crews weather protection this winter.

Big Lots has been mum about its future, referring questions to a variety of phone numbers that don’t lead to any answers but shoppers note the store’s shelves are quite empty after Christmas.

Things we’re still wondering about. The future of the former J.C. Penney building and what could go in there is still a mind teaser. Maybe there will be movement and action on that front in 2020.

The Dispatch also made changes this year with the digital reading opportunities and our new website. We continue to look for new ways to present information for readers on as many platforms as we can. We are currently working more with infographics and maps that should be a benefit to online and print readers. Thank you for continuing to support our work online and with our printed paper.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Renee Richardson, 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.
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