Monday, September 1, 2014

Zimmy's: We're all in this together

As the summer season comes to a close, I look back at all of the fun one was able to pack into three short months and also the many fabulous things I witnessed happening back in my dear hometown of Hibbing. The showcase of the summer seemed to be the beautiful execution of the Hibbing All Class Reunion.

 Although I was not able to be there—as I spent my precious vacation days on Side Lake time over the 4th of July—I was delighted to see all of the excitement and fun reflected in my Facebook feed.  It looked like a lot of fun was had by people of all ages and that there was plenty of Hibbing pride to go around.  As a former band geek, I particularly enjoyed seeing the many, many videos of the Hibbing alumni band under the direction of the esteemed Art Hill that were circulating around the interwebs.  Brought back many good memories of summer band practice in the Memorial Building parking lot and marching down 7th avenue.

And yet, with all the happiness, something was missing.

There was a bit of a gaping hole in the festivities and in my Hibbing experience the few times I was able to visit this summer.


The fabulous bar & restaurant and unofficial Bob Dylan museum was silent and empty.

Now, some may say that these things happen.  Times are tough.  Businesses close.  But everyone has those kind of places in one’s hometown that create the foundation of a place, I have to say that Zimmy’s was a little bit of that for me.  It was someplace that honored the roots of Hibbing (via the historic building and telling the story of its various incarnations) and yet at the same time pushed forward with new and different ideas (sushi night and art classes offered through Community Ed).  It was the place where I had a good-bye meal with my family before I left for the adventure of grad school in Florida.  It was the place where I would meet friends from out of town for dinner and drinks.  It was the place where I enjoyed all kinds of music and fashion shows.

Picture of Zimmy's interior as captured in December 2009, before I left for my Florida grad school adventure.  

Zimmy’s was a place whose owners were quite generous with their time, their stories, and other things.

I remember one day, a couple summers back, when I was in town working Sidewalk Sales at my sister’s store.  It was one of those long, hot days (open something like 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.).  Running back and forth, keeping racks filled, ringing up purchases. . .I was happy, but admittedly a little exhausted.  At that moment, Linda (one of the Zimmy’s owners) stopped in with some funnel cake straws—a fun new dessert at the time, which she knew we enjoyed.  It was really kind of her to stop by with that food, but beyond that to offer the kind of emotional support that said—we’re all in this together.

A big part of the reason I started this blog was to offer some kind of support, a place for a rallying cry, for the small business community of Hibbing.  It’s the kind of support that Linda and Zimmy’s gave naturally whether through hosting events, collaborating with other local businesses, or just being an encouraging presence.

It’s the kind of place and the kind of people that Hibbing needs, at least my Hibbing does.  And for that reason, I am going over to the Indiegogo page that has been set up to raise money for Zimmy’s revival.  If Zimmy’s has been that kind of special place for you, I’d encourage you to do the same.

There are 11 days left in the campaign and a lot of money left to raise, if we would like to see Zimmy’s rise again; but I’ve always been a fan of the long shot.  Sometimes we just have to do what we can, with what we have.  The fact is I live in Iowa and can get consumed by my life here, but I can write this blog post and I can give some money.

What can you do?

After all, we’re all in this together.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Light a Candle: Give Back and Give Thanks!

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. 

This proverb has always been one of my favorite sayings.  Sometimes I think it should come with the following addendum, however, "although it is easier to curse the darkness." 

Because, lets face it, it is easier to complain.  Especially in this era of internet connectivity and social media platforms.  It's easy, tempting, satisfying, and even vindicating to rail against all that irritates, annoys, and infuriates you.  I'll admit that occassionally venting my spleen here on the interwebs provides a temporary high, but in the end, it does nothing.  In fact, for me this idea creates the mental image of a pitch black space with a bunch of people wandering around shouting what collectively seems like nonsense as all of their complaints combine.  And unless we're playing a metaphorical game of Marco Polo--this is pointless. 

Lighting a candle, on the other hand, seems inherently useful in this situation.  Light a candle in a dark room and you can better see yourself, the space in front of you, and depending on the strength of your candlelight you might even be able to see the bigger picture of the room itself, other people in it, and possible ways out. 

But enough with the metaphors,  lets talk reality. 

Photo provided by DaGoaty.

Lets light a candle in the darkness of Black Friday.  This is a candle we're lighting at my sister's store {moxie} on First Avenue in Hibbing.  We recently discovered the dire straits that the Hibbing Food Shelf is is, so today we're collecting non-perishable food item donations on their behalf.  The need is great for staples like pasta, pasta sauce, ramen noodles, canned vegetables, and canned fruit.  Anyone who brings in one or more non-perishable food items to the store today will receive 10% off their total purchase. 

Food drives and clothes not your thing?  You can always send a check directly to the Food Shelf or whatever charitable organization makes life a little brighter in Hibbing. 

Yesterday's Thanksgiving holiday and the days leading up to it were a wonderful exercise in being intentionally grateful.  Just the act of being thankful is a great way to light a candle of two, care to join me? 

Please comment on this blog post or adjacent Facebook posting, with something about Hibbing that you're grateful for. . .this could be a person, a kind deed, an organization, an activity, whatever.  Also feel free to seize an opportunity today to do a good deed--hold doors open, shovel someone's walk, write thank you cards, smile. 

Lets challenge the darkess of today by lighting many different candles on what could be known as "Give Back Friday."

Here's a match. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Salute and a Big Thank You to Those in the Arena

It's not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the who, at the worst, if he fails at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
--Theodore Roosevelt
"Citizenship in a Republic"
Speech at the Sorbonne
Paris, April 23, 1910

The above text is one of my all time favorite quotes and today I dedicate it to the amazing entrepreneurs of Hibbing.  Despite the trials of the recession and other odds that can at time, seem insurmountable;  you keep going.  You give us cheery shops to buy gifts for others or something a little special for ourselves.  You provide inviting spaces to stop and refuel with delicious food on a cold winter day.  Your taxes and donations to community causes make our town a better place. 

And in a time when times are tough, your storefronts (still full) give people like me a reason to hope. 

It may seem like a small matter to those on the outside, but please know there are people who see the long hours you work and sacrifices you make to bring your dreams to reality and make our community a better place to live. 

I hope you all will have some time to celebrate the holiday with those you love and afterwards, I hope more and more people will chose to recognize your dedication with their dollars by shopping local. 

November 24: Small Business Saturday. 

See you out there. 

Note: For those of you interested in some additional perspective on the "shop local" movement.  I'd encourage you to check out the following links:

Buy Local Cartoon by Brad J. Aldridge

Don't Just Buy Local, Buy Personal by Jeff Haden

Friday, October 26, 2012

Small Business Saturday: "You've Got To Get Mad"

Note: For those of you who follow this blog, my apologies for my rather long hiatus. It's more difficult than I originally anticipated to maintain a blog about my beloved hometown while living somewhere else.  Life pulls one in so many different directions with work and relationships, that blog often finds itself on the bottom of the priority chain.  And yet, I begin again, because I love it and it's my little piece of putting something positive into the universe on behalf of Hibbing.  :)

I found out this week that Leuthold-Jacobson's clothing store, a fixture on Howard Street for as long as I can remember; is closing. 

Now on a certain level, this is not surprising news.  One could read the writing on the wall, looking at fiscal realities and modern consumer habits.  But it is sad, nonetheless.  I shudder to think of the appearance of the Leuthold's building as another empty storefront downtown. 

And yet, before I let myself wander too far down the path of destructive communal self-pity . . . I remind myself that this is a blog about "hearting" Hibbing, about encouraging positive developments in the community, about cheering it on and fighting the good fight. 

This is not the time to give up, give in, and admit defeat.  This is time to re-energize and re-double our efforts.  And along those lines, I offer up the following video for inspiration:

Indeed, it is time to get mad.  Seize the day.  Never surrender.  Victory or death . . .okay, maybe that's a little extreme, but you get the idea. 

It may fly in the face of all logic, but I truly believe that we "the people of Hibbing" can unite and together revitalize our independent business community.  It's all about getting mad and then channeling that energy into getting organized. 

Target Number 1: Downtown Hibbing, Small Business Saturday (November 24th). 

I'll be there.  Care to join me? 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reflections on Support Hibbing Independents

Happy Saturday, all.  While those of you in Hib-town may be winding down from the Red Ore Run , gearing up for the Jubilee Parade, or just trying to stay cool at a nearby lake; here I am at my apartment in Iowa taking a chance to reflect on last week’s Support Hibbing Independents Initiative. 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but last Friday and Saturday were definitely an eye-opening experience for me.  Some of my coolest discoveries were as follows:

  • The Odd Shop has a great line of greeting cards which use vintage photos as well as an excellent selection of Hibbing postcards. 
  • Surprise: Bikes on Howard has popcorn and slushies.  Not sure if this was a special occurrence or everyday thing, but I definitely noted it while pricing bike seats.
  • Amateur artists like myself can get great deals on art supplies at SoHo where I picked up a couple of canvases, brushes, and a beginners set of oil paints for less than $15. 

Honestly, I had a number of ah-ha moments experiencing downtown Hibbing last week.  Some delightful, others sobering; but one of my favorites was like visiting an old friend and I’d like to share it with you. 

Howard Street Booksellers

After a quick trip to the Hibbing Historical Society on Saturday morning, I ran over to Howard Street Booksellers.  I feel like I have history with this place and the owners, Joe and Mary.  They’re good people, who know their customers and really know their stuff.  Last year when I was looking to buy some books for my darling little goddaughter they were able to explain transitions in the publishing of my favorite Golden Books and help me select titles with better quality bindings, which I never would have noticed on my own. 

So last Saturday when I walked in the shop, Joe greeted me with a smile.  We exchanged pleasantries a bit and I explained I was looking for a couple of good reads to take out to the lake with me that afternoon.  He gave me my space to browse, but I knew he was ready and willing to offer suggestions or answer any questions.  While I was browsing for “the perfect book” I happened to overhear snippets of Joe’s conversations with other customers. 

Thanks Joe, for being such a good sport and letting me capture  a pic for the blog!
“Well, I know that you like kayaking. . .”

“How’s your mother?”

“Well, it’s similar to the other series you were reading. . .”

Dylan-themed display near the entrance.  
It’s been said in a number of places in a variety of ways, but one of the best things about local shops like this is the personal service.  Of course, I buy great books there like my recent Michael J. Fox memoir-find, but I realize that I go to Howard Street for more than books.  I like that when I walk through the doors they know who I am.  They ask about my family and how I like my job.  They know what I am interested in and it’s not the result of some sort of computer profile based on my web browsing habits.  While I acknowledge the fiscal reality of retail business, when I go into this shop I experience a genuine sense of community caring and I think others do too. 

These are the kind of places I want in my hometown.  Shops that make you smile when you walk by, even during off hours.  Places you can go to find what you need both in terms of goods and services, but also in the sense of community. These are spaces that celebrate the unique in a world that is often a little too cookie cutter.   

So, in closing, was the Support Hibbing Independents effort a success?  Well, I don’t know.  There was not a literal mob of people at Howard Street Booksellers, but who’s to say that business was not “up” at many of our local establishments?  I do know that my sister’s shop experienced an uptick and I hope others did as well.  I think it’s a step in the right direction, but there’s a lot more that can be done. 

In the end, it’s about getting people’s attention, changing attitudes, and changing behavior.  That’s tough work.  That’s long term work.  Although “Support Hibbing Independents” may be over, I think this movement is really just beginning.  Let’s continue to talk about and work for supporting a growing small business community in Hibbing.  Together, we can make a positive impact!

Please share your experience of Support Hibbing Independents below, along with any questions or ideas you have about moving this initiative forward in the comments below.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

As I review the posts I've made to this blog over the past year, I realize that I've done an awful lot of talking about supporting local, independent businesses.  Sure, there's a lot of other things to "heart" in Hibbing, but this is something that I am personally passionate about and I believe deserving of a little extra TLC. 

On that note, I am taking the mantra "actions speak louder than words" to heart in this post.  Writing less in the effort to say more. 

During my recent trip to Hibbing, I decided to deliberately put The 3/50 Project into action.  Supporting indies here in Iowa or when I'm back home in Hibbing is something that comes naturally, but for the purposes of this post, I wanted to be particular.

I withdrew $50 in cash from the ATM before I hopped in my old Grand Am and made the great trek north to the Iron Range.  The money remained set aside in my wallet as I cruised through the Twin Cities, Hinckley, and Cloquet.  Those bills were dedicated to being spent in my three favorite Hibbing independent businesses: Moxie, Howard Street Booksellers, and Rhythm Deli

I am happy to report that $49.50 bought me:
  • Pair of black dress capris (on clearance)
  • Greeting card for my mother's birthday
  • Hardcover book The Walmart Effect (used)
  • Paperback book Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize
  • 1 Chicken Alfredo panini
  • 2 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper
  • 2 small bags of chips
It was a wonderful and delicious experience, which you can see below.  I'm planning on taking the next few blog posts to go into further detail about what makes these Hibbing businesses awesome and also to talk a little bit about the upcoming "Support Hibbing Independents" event on July 6th and 7th.
Festive window displays always make me smile. 

So many choices.  Looking for just the right book is half the fun. 

Perfect late lunch with my sister before heading out to the lake. 

In the meantime, I invite you to think about your favorite Hibbing independent businesses.  Are there three that you would miss if they disappeared?  I'd love to hear about them in the comment box, or--even better--in a guest post to this blog.

As it says on the bottom of The 3/50 Project's homepage: "Number of people it takes to start the trend . . .you!"  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Power of Perception

Last week over in the Pro-Hibbing Facebook Group there was a very active thread surrounding the idea of Walmart vs local “mom and pop” businesses.  In a sense it very succinctly laid out the fact that small, local businesses close when you don’t shop there because of the solitary pursuit of the lowest price.  Needless to say it’s been a very passionate (borderline nasty at times) conversation. 

Honestly, I have mixed emotions about it.  On one hand, it’s encouraging that so many people care so much about this issue and perhaps all of this anger and frustration can be channeled into a positive, constructive movement to support local businesses.  On the other hand, it also runs the risk of generating nothing beyond a lot of heat and very little light. 

What really worries me is all of these people speaking of downtown Hibbing as dead.  Sure, there are a lot more empty storefronts than I would like to see, but I feel like this kind of language becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and a slap in the face to those businesses that ARE there.  These past few years have been a rough economic ride and I feel we should put more energy into congratulating and encouraging the business owners we do have rather than lamenting those who are not there.

Picture of SoHo Gallery & Gifts circa Fall 2009 after their fabulous exterior remodel.  One of my favorite shops in town and proof positive that downtown Hibbing isn't dead.  For more info: here's their listing on Made on the Range.

Perception is powerful and when people perceive that “there is nothing in downtown Hibbing” that will fuel behavior to ensure that becomes reality.  Please allow me to illustrate my point with a story. 

Last summer I was staying in Hibbing for a bit and working in my sister’s clothing store.  It had been a pretty quiet evening one day and I was probably about an hour from closing when a rather bubbly woman came into the shop. 

She was a visitor in town from out of state, actually there for a few days in order to investigate/do the paperwork for starting up a business in town.  She was so happy to have found our little boutique as she was looking for a few fun things for herself as well as some gifts for her daughters back home. 
I helped her find some jewelry that was “just right” and a few other things.  It was a pleasure to work with her and a great sale as well. 

However, this encounter almost didn’t happen.  The woman had explained to me when she arrived that she had asked several people in the local hotel where she was staying if there was a women’s clothing or gift shop in town.  She was told that Walmart was really all there was in town.  Lucky she decided to explore downtown herself and discover that this information wasn’t true. 

So, to my fellow Pro-Hibbing people, yes, our economic decisions matter.  If we want local businesses to thrive we need to vote with our pocket books.  However, we also need to watch what we say and the messages we perpetuate. 

This week’s challenge: do you know all of the local businesses we have in town?  The chamber website is a good place to start, although you could also just take a cruise down 1st and Howard.  Take some time to explore what these places have to offer and if it makes sense, commit yourself to shopping there; but don’t stop there.  Remember how your words and recommendations have power.  Seek out opportunities to remind people of the good things we have here in Hibbing.  Start a positive chain reaction.  You never know where it may lead.