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home : columns : columns July 26, 2017

7/12/2017 10:22:00 AM
Windom sees incredible change over 51 years

Kim Anderson

It was 51 years ago that my parents, Ken and Gerrie Anderson, purchased the Cottonwood County Citizen. With me, then 14 years old, and two younger siblings (Kirk and Robyn) in tow, my folks made the journey from Barnesville, (population 1,500) to the Big City of Windom.
What a change 50 years brings about.
For me, I'm on Medicare and eligible for Social Security. I'm fatter, balder, slower; but possibly smarter, than the young kid who was awestruck and maybe a little frightened by his new school and community.
For the city of Windom, so much has changed - especially in the business community.
In the 1960s Windom offered this selection of grocery stores: Swanson's (now Hy-Vee), Ronnie's Market, Daggett's Foods, Johnson's Fair Store, National Foods, Moon's Meat and two small neighborhood convenience stores. Gordy's Super Valu opened later in the decade and became the dominant grocer.
Wolff's Department Store was a full department store. Quevli's offered the latest in men's wear and family shoes; as did Bob's Clothing and Jim's Shoes.
Nearly a dozen women's dress shops dotted the Square and the highway. Windom also had three drug stores, all on the Square. Schwalbach and Johnson Hardware stores, both still in business, served the community along with two other hardware stores and a Fleet and Farm. Galle's Ben Franklin was the ultimate in small-town variety.
Higley Ford, Steffen's Chevrolet, and Van Nest Motors (Chrysler) provided the surrounding area with cars and trucks.
Windom sported three large furniture stores, Benson's Office Supply, a bunch of small restaurants, several bars and the best drive-in in the area (Pine Inn).
Every single business in town was family-owned, and community-supported.
In the '60s and '70s, Friday night was king. Every store was open and finding a parking stall was tough (Windom had meters back then). Families made the Friday evening trek into Windom a weekly highlight. Save for a possible annual trip to Mankato or Minneapolis, area residents did all of their shopping in Windom.
Fifty-one years later
Fast forward 51 years and we see a different business community.
To be sure, there are still family-owned businesses doing well and providing the needed goods and services for Windom.
But "the good old days" began to disappear for small town retail back in the 1980s with the advent of the super stores (think Walmart) and the ease of travel. That trend accelerated with the mushrooming growth of the Internet in the new century. Today online shopping is so easy - even for vehicles - that it's not hard to see why some chose to make it their primary source of goods.
Those local businesses that still populate the Square and the highway corridor have done so through hard work and dedication - and smart evolution. They are the ones that pay taxes and support a myriad of local causes.
Patronizing local businesses was a given 51 years ago. To keep our community assets, doing business locally is maybe even more important today.

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