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Letter: Downtown needs store that attracts the average resident

To the editor,

I’ve lived in Hastings for almost three years (so I’m not a “townie”) since I bought a house here on the east side. I love many things about Hastings including the people and the small town atmosphere.

But I had to comment on the editorial about the fact that downtown Hastings businesses have had a rough couple of years and need a break. I have been downtown only a few times and the problem isn’t that there has been construction or bad weather or anything like that keeping people from visiting the downtown Hastings businesses. The problem is that there are few to no stores that attract the average resident to want to go there. It has the potential to get lots of pedestrians to walk from their homes to shop there but there’s no reason to. There’s only so many thrift stores and antique shops I need to see in my lifetime and I got my fill of it the first Saturday I went there and went through them all. There’s nothing that draws me to go back.

There are a few bars and restaurants to take in once in a while but that’s not what gets people shopping.

Ideally the entire downtown would be leveled and updated with new attractive buildings instead of the admittedly historic but crumbling structures that are there now. If that won’t be accomplished (I know that may be too much progress even for a city that prides itself on this descriptor), Hastings businesses would be wise to copy the model of many lifestyle centers in other cities that boast a vibrant economy and thriving sales because they attract people to walk or drive there and spend the day. One such place that immediately comes to mind is the center on Highway 110 near Highway 49 in Mendota Heights. It has several trendy shops, a Caribou, an ice cream store, a fitness center, and possibly even a book store. Hastings downtown needs more places where people can spend their time enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a book such as a Barnes & Noble. (I know we have several other coffee joints already, but the locations for all of these are on busy highways and don’t attract people to impulsively stop in.) A shoe store for people looking for everyday shoes such as Payless would also probably do very well.

I realize that the business owners in downtown pride themselves on being small businesses and not big box retailers but they need to encourage people to come in and visit if they want to stay in business. Downtown needs a coffee shop with chairs and tables outside for people to sit and read. It could also use more restaurants especially ones that cater to people with special dietary needs (gluten free, etc.) There are so many things that could go downtown to make it attractive to city residents to spend some time and money there. But it would take willingness to embrace change and yes, a bit of progress.