Brownsdale booming with business

Published 8:15 am Thursday, May 31, 2012

Don Larick shows some of the wares he and his wife sell at Past & Present, an antique store they opened in Brownsdale last fall. -- Matt Peterson/

Stories about little Brownsdale’s economy have been everything from extremely grim to highly hopeful. This one is the latter.

Alamo Annie's set to open today, is one of many new, unique stores opening in Brownsdale. Alamo Annie's will specialize in larger paintings and rustic furnishings.

Just two years ago, the town struggled with a severe case of ghost town syndrome, but locals may have found the cure: a business theme — and each other. Antique shops, consignment opportunities, flowers, makeup and even a computer repair store now fill just one block where more than half the storefronts were recently empty.

“It’s a mix of old and new, and we’re all trying to work together,” said Carol Larick, who with her husband, Don, opened the antique store Past & Present last fall.

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Just down the street, another woman was tirelessly working on Tuesday, painting and getting things in order so she can open Alamo Annie’s by today. And others weren’t shy to jump in and help her, especially Cheryl Nagel, who with her husband, Steve, opened the business that likely started the business boom: Langtry Cafe.

“Most of it is a result of our wonderful little restaurant in town,” Larick said about the boom, and added that her store has benefited greatly. “Without them, I know we wouldn’t be in business.”

Langtry opened in February 2011 and lies on the same block as Past & Present, along with nearly all the new businesses that are opening.

Owners Steve and Cheryl noticed many locals frequenting their restaurant, then many people from surrounding towns. Now people come all the way from Rochester, Byron and perhaps beyond.

“Langtry Cafe does really well,” said Tina Quandt, another business owner to join the scene. “They’ve got really good food. We’ve eaten there quite a few times. … And they get a lot of business.”

Quandt hopes to open her consignment shop, Thrifty U, on June 1. While it may seem like a stretch that Quandt is moving her business from Austin to Brownsdale, she’s confident it will fit in with Brownsdale’s theme. Furthermore, she likes the small-town feel and understands like all the other owners that it’s not competition; it’s cooperation.

Don Larick, who owns Past & Present with his wife, Carol, in Brownsdale, looks over a vast collection of knives he's accumulated during the years.

“I won’t have to do it on my own, or so to speak,” Quandt said. “It’s a small-town feeling where everybody knows everybody and they all just pitch in to help.”

An antique mall, Cornerstone Collectibles, which opened on May 5, lies directly across the street from Quandt’s store, as well. The mall’s new manager, Sherry Cliby, of New York, had aspirations of getting out of the big city and heading out to the Southwest one year ago. She made it no farther than Brownsdale.

“When I first got there, it was much more desolate,” Cliby said. “Now there are cars on main street, and it’s amazing.”

Cliby operates the computer repair business, while six vendors sell various antiques and wares. Two others sell their items on consignment. The townsfolk have all mentioned how there are so many new businesses. Brownsdale is a town of just 700, yet few people can actually count the exact number of new businesses. Another retail business called Liberty’s, tucked right behind the antique mall, will soon open, as well.

The numerous business owners are all on the same page, though.

“They are trying to make it a destination spot,” Quandt said. “Lanesboro, St. Ansgar, that’s what they are trying to do with Brownsdale.”

While Brownsdale business owners like the Laricks remember how Brownsdale dwindled, they’re glad they stayed. One could have likely sat in the middle of the street not much more than a year ago. At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, there was traffic.

“It was drastically fading away, and it’s been rejuvenated by a lot of people,” Carol said.