I may have only been here a couple years now, but the business climate from 2017 to 2019 was one of the most positive changes I've witnessed so far. While the community held on to some great long-time businesses, some changed hands and other new businesses surprised us all. I can't count the number of people I heard from that were so excited about the vibrant growth downtown Wadena has seen in the last year. There were, however, some sour feelings, as change can sometimes create.

For those that continue to say that Wadena is dying a slow death or not seeing any positive growth, I give you the following examples of economic growth. Please keep in mind I am likely missing some projects, but this is a list of what I could recall that the Pioneer Journal reported on. If I am missing some, please give me a shout so I can add them to the list.

I can already hear the cry that some of these are not improvements. Like the business or not, new construction in our region means people are investing in this place. A remodeled building that's been sitting vacant for a decade shows people are looking to improve the look, feel and offerings here. This much development can't go unnoticed. I'm hoping we can keep the momentum going into 2020.

March

  • One of the biggest employers in the area, Tri-County Health Care, announced plans to either remodel or construct a new hospital and clinic. Administration later decided to build new, and at first looked at the Wadena County Fairgrounds. Due to the high cost of relocating the fair, they later focused on property west of Wadena in Otter Tail County, where they plan to construct the "health care facility of the future." This was a big story that certainly brought out the most public interest to numerous community gatherings, and more social media commentary than I ever care to view again.

An artist's rendering shows the dramatic entry design of Tri-County Health Care's new construction project planned for west of Wadena.
Image courtesy Tri-County Health Care
An artist's rendering shows the dramatic entry design of Tri-County Health Care's new construction project planned for west of Wadena. Image courtesy Tri-County Health Care

Even today, after many stories related to the project, it still garners the most interest and debate from readers. However, its construction could have some major impact as the hospital and clinic look to move into Otter Tail County. Administration have promised to do good with the current buildings now on Jefferson Street North, but what will become of them is not yet clear.

  • Drastic Measures Brewing opened their doors in the former Coast-to-Coast building, which had been vacant "too long," as the owner said.

Brett and Ashley Doebbeling were hard at work at Drastic Measures Brewing when they were greeted by the Wadena Chamber of Commerce. They were given their first dollar in the lobby.
Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal
Brett and Ashley Doebbeling were hard at work at Drastic Measures Brewing when they were greeted by the Wadena Chamber of Commerce. They were given their first dollar in the lobby. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal

The business was packed to the gills its first weeks as people tried out what brewer Brett Doebbeling had to offer. Eats and Ales quickly stepped in to provide food at the brewery.

  • Albers Realty, a real estate business formerly located east of Wadena along Hwy 10 for 26 years, was forced to relocate as their building was demolished to make way for a Hwy 10 holding pond. Albers found a new home in their daughter's business (Pure Gold Nutrition) at 120 Jefferson St. S.

  • The former Fastenal building, which was moved north on Jefferson Street got a new look and was soon to see a new tenant, Farm Bureau Financial Services.

April

MnDOT announced something that many had trouble believing -- Hwy 10 road reconstruction was actually going to happen. And it did begin in spring 2019, but much to the dismay of residents, it was not a four-lane project. Reconstruction of the road way on the east and west ends of towns came to a close in October thanks to the final completion of County Road 4. The real fun starts in May of 2020 when work begins within the city on Hwy 10.

May

  • Super One Foods opened in their new location -- that was the old location. Confusing, but well received by those looking to see the old building find a great owner. The former location west of Fleet Supply is still vacant.

Customers were welcomed into the new Super One Foods in Wadena on May 1. 
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Customers were welcomed into the new Super One Foods in Wadena on May 1. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

  • Northwest AqwaTek Solutions broke ground on a new property as they chose to move out of their Jefferson Street location and head for 219 Bryant Ave. SE. The old Merchant Bank building was later rented (skip to December to find out who).
  • Jamie Bryniarski opened Bryniarski Tattoo at 318 Jefferson St. S. suite 4 in Wadena.

June

  • Fine Art Backdrops started producing backdrops out of the old Sweet Pickins location at 204 Jefferson St. N Suite 1.

  • Canoe Paddle Kettle Corn started popping up all around the region, offering signature blends of flavors out of a 160-quart kettle.

July

  • Erica’s House of Wellness, a specialty shop that sells CBD oil and other hemp based products, opened in a former used car lot on Hwy 10 East.

  • Little Kritters Daycare opened in the former vacuum business next to the Elks Lodge, immediately filling a portion of the need for daycare in the area.

  • Lisa Baymler celebrated a recent renovation of Lyles Shoes with a grand reopening.

  • Inner Balance Massage Therapy opens at 318 South Jefferson St. Suite 1B.

August

  • We reported on the new Business Park starting construction. That project was almost completed except for a final overlay. Even without being done, the site welcomed construction of new businesses.
  • The renovated WDC Elementary School was reopened with an open house welcoming out the community.
  • Right on time for the new school year, the public was welcomed out to an open house of the new Freshwater Education District building near the Wadena Industrial Park.

The facility was built on the edge of Wadena. This location was chosen so students would have privacy and place to learn with few distractions.
Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal
The facility was built on the edge of Wadena. This location was chosen so students would have privacy and place to learn with few distractions. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal

September

  • The old Wadena Bakery was finally reopened as Leeseberg's Sweet Treats Bakery much to the pleasure of those lacking fine confections in the region. Much to my delight, they make a frosted donut covered in Fruity Pebbles. A donut I'd never tried before, and hope never goes away.
  • A Perham based wine making business, Make Me Wine, went through a rough year after a fire destroyed the business. The business made a brief move to New York Mills before coming to rest in the former Rex McDonald Studio in Wadena.
  • A business retention and expansion plan was completed following a huge volunteer effort throughout the county, and administered by the Economic Alliance (Wadena County's economic development group) and the University of Minnesota. This gave interested parties information about what the major concerns are for the community and helped shape a plan to tackle those issues.

October

  • The city of Wadena approved the sale of lots within the new business park to Dollar General, which plans to open at the end of 2020. Many readers were glad to have an option like this available, while others felt another dollar store was a bad idea.
  • Earlier in the fall, Joey's PC sold to a business that has now been churning out roasted coffee beans, Owly Bean Roasters.
  • The Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce moved into the renovated Depot building, a decision the board mulled over for much of the year.
  • Mercury Mosaics, a Minneapolis based handmade tile manufacturer, chose to move some of its tile manufacturing to Wadena. That project is still in the works.

November

  • Kals Kars expanded their showroom area when owner Dan Kallevig bought the former Union Creek Organic building. The motor sports equipment, fish houses, boats and appliances take up a large portion of the space.

December

  • Southside Sinclair, Wadena's only fueling station on the south side of Hwy 10 opened for business within the new business park. The station, owned and operated by Paul and Ryan Hunke, is a pay at the pump station only at this time. There's a chance that could change.

Southside Sinclair opened for business Dec. 24 with pay-at-the-pump fuel available to the south side of town.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Southside Sinclair opened for business Dec. 24 with pay-at-the-pump fuel available to the south side of town. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

  • BrickHouse Spa & Boutique opened at 123 Jefferson St. S, offering relaxation and shopping experiences.

Ongoing

  • A group of folks held two major gatherings to talk about the potential for some green space, mainly in the spots where the former Orton's BP and Fastenal building were once located, on the east and west sides of Hwy 71 and on the south side of Hwy 10. Once this area was opened up, folks began to see the potential for creating a gateway into Wadena. It's still in the works but it has a promising start that could begin once the dust settles following the Hwy 10 road construction.
  • The Wadena Development Authority purchased and has been gutting a downtown business that had a few too many issues for most people to attempt investing in the building. The former "Snowblower building" -- as many people remember it -- has now had the front taken off to expose what appears to be a glass "Hardware" sign.
  • Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority has been working with the school to place a student built home on a tornado lot in Wadena, with the hopes of selling the new home. The home was finished in the spring, moved in the fall and hopefully will be sold in the spring. The partnership allows students to learn important skills while keeping new housing right here in Wadena.