There were a lot of changes this past week on the business front in Brainerd and Baxter, as new businesses make their way into spaces vacated by big names.

As of Friday morning, the deal was complete as El Tequila owner Pedro Unzueta prepared to make the move from his current location in the FitQuest building to the former Olive Garden. In the weeks ahead, Unzueta will oversee the restaurant’s relocation to the south with an expected opening during the first week of December.

El Tequila Authentic Mexican Restaurant is moving from the FitQuest complex to the former Olive Garden along Highway 371 in Baxter. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
El Tequila Authentic Mexican Restaurant is moving from the FitQuest complex to the former Olive Garden along Highway 371 in Baxter. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

El Tequila has been part of the community since 2008 and Unzueta also owns the Burritos California restaurant on Washington Street in west Brainerd. The restaurant in the FitQuest building will close as El Tequila moves. Olive Garden closed in March after building its restaurant and opening in Baxter in the fall of 2012.

Another name that was part of the community for decades came down recently as the Herberger’s sign was removed from the Westgate Mall. Plans call for Ashley Furniture to reopen in the former department store space. Herberger’s was Brainerd’s last big department store as the mall straddles the city limits of Baxter and Brainerd. Of course, Baxter continues to have Kohl’s, the last of the big three department stores in the community after Herberger’s and J.C. Penney both closed.

Chipotle is moving closer to opening later this month in Baxter in the new development in front of Gander Outdoors. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
Chipotle is moving closer to opening later this month in Baxter in the new development in front of Gander Outdoors. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Chipotle plans to open Nov. 19 and announced the first 50 customers in line will receive Chipotle swag.

Five Guys is moving along with the signs up on the exterior and work continuing inside the new restaurant along Highway 371 by Gander Outdoors. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
Five Guys is moving along with the signs up on the exterior and work continuing inside the new restaurant along Highway 371 by Gander Outdoors. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Five Guys also is moving closer to opening with construction still ongoing inside the restaurant as of last week. An opening date has yet to be announced.

Firehouse Subs is hiring for its location by the Sleep Number store in Baxter near Menards. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
Firehouse Subs is hiring for its location by the Sleep Number store in Baxter near Menards. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Firehouse Subs is hiring for its location by Menards with work ongoing in the building last week to prepare for the restaurant.

Voting for the Destination Downtown Business Challenge begins Monday, Nov. 11. The voting period runs from midnight Nov. 11 to midnight Nov. 15. The three finalists are:

  • Crow Wing Food Co-op has an expansion plan, prepared by board member Jennifer Jacquot-DeVries, which proposes to move the cooperatively owned grocery store specializing in local, organic and allergen-free foods and directly linking consumers and growers, to a larger space with a modernized image. The co-op proposes to expand its retail space, prioritize pastured meats, organic products and locally grown produce. It would include a mini cafe and smoothie bar to provide more options for prepared food and beverages. Long term, the co-op wants to expand to build a full rentable commercial kitchen.

  • Loidé Oils & Vinegars, which originated in Nisswa, has already expanded to Walker, Bemidji and Monticello and is proposing to add a downtown Brainerd location with an expansion into high-end professional appliances, such as a steam oven, host appliance demonstrations and cooking classes with the potential to add cooking accessories, gadgets and utensils. Loidé Oils and Vinegars includes a tasting bar and gifts. It includes artisan extra virgin olive oils imported from all over the globe and aged balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy. The six-year-old business is owned by Lois Hensel.

  • Minnesota Makerspace is the brainchild of Trevor Kruse and Chris Smith and proposes to provide multiple avenues as a retail consignment space, an avenue for do-it-yourself classes and creation space for members -- from repurposing furniture, for example, to creating items for holiday sales. It would serve as a business incubator for the entrepreneur, a space for hobbyists to work and create, and serve as a destination for those looking for a do-it-yourself experience complete with materials, tools and instructors.

For more information, go to https://downtownbrainerd.org/