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Our goals with this Bricks and Clicks series

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JCPenney. Herberger's. Target. They started dropping off like flies throughout the lakes area. But when Norby's Department Store in Detroit Lakes announced earlier this year they'd be going out of business after 112 years, it stopped us in our tracks. This family-owned anchor to DL's vibrant downtown had survived every single shopping trend, not to mention two great wars and the Great Depression. But it couldn't withstand this. Online shopping, Amazon in particular, has been chipping away at local businesses for quite some time, and Norby's and other closings led to us asking, "What can we do?" And we asked lots of questions.

What we've found is that it's not all doom and gloom. Business owners and communities are adapting to the ever-changing world and retail, specifically Bricks and Mortar buildings, are not dead. Lakes areas like Perham and Alexandria and many others nearby still have thriving retail markets. Sure, some of the stores have changed names or changed hands, but the lakes area communities have plenty to offer local and seasonal shoppers.

Today is the first of our three-part series, Bricks and Clicks, designed to educate our readers on what's happening in retail in the lakes area. Our goal is to explain the challenges, the successes, and what's being done in our communities by business owners and local governments to combat what Perham Economic Development Director Chuck Johnson describes as the "8,000-pound gorilla," Amazon.

This series will be presented over three installments. Part 1 looks at the challenges of what retail business owners are facing. Parts 2 and 3 will explore what's working in our markets and what's being done by local governments to help business owners.

We find it fitting that this series kicks off during the biggest shopping week of the year. Did you read this or the advertisements inside today's paper first? We're guessing the ads. But we're glad you're here, too. We wanted to give you an in-depth look at what's happening with retail at a time when retail spending is on a lot of your minds.

The dollars you spend locally are so important. We hope this series will encourage you to shop local as often as you're able, whether it's purchasing Christmas gifts for friends and family, or everyday necessities. If nothing else, we hope these stories will make you pause and think about a purchase before you look at something in a local store and buy the same item online. You might be convinced after reading these stories that keeping those dollars in your community is so vital that it changes your spending habits. That's our hope. That you learn about the importance of shopping local, what it means to buy elsewhere and make the best decision for you and the communities you call home.

Jason Miller

Jason Miller is publisher of the Perham Focus and Wadena Pioneer Journal. Miller has held various roles for Forum Communications and started working part-time in the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's sports department in 1999. 

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