New twist on city liquor store sites

Thirteen different locations were discussed by a task force recently appointed to discuss the location of a new Perham municipal liquor store. By the end of the session Sept. 25, the panel narrowed its sights on five locations. Two of the sites a...

Thirteen different locations were discussed by a task force recently appointed to discuss the location of a new Perham municipal liquor store.

By the end of the session Sept. 25, the panel narrowed its sights on five locations. Two of the sites are on the edge of the downtown Perham business district; three are near Highway 10, in the rapidly growing commercial area.

The two possible downtown locations were something of a surprise: Several residential lots directly east of the Service Foods store; and an interesting prospect of redeveloping the Helmeke building--with a shared parking lot with Farmer's State Bank.

Many merchants have been lobbying to keep the city-operated liquor store near the downtown area. But the downtown locations mentioned most often--the former NAPA auto parts store, the former Kelly's Tavern, and the former car lot on the east end of Main Street--were quickly ruled out by the liquor store task force. Parking, accessibility, delivery, congestion, and visibility were among the factors considered.

Three highway sites eyed


Meanwhile, three sites at the Highway 10 junction were targeted.

  • The Happel addition, in the commercial development that includes the Dollar Store and Bremer Bank. There are four options within the commercial property. All are undeveloped, so building could start with no obstructions, and it could be built brand new, to city specifications.
  • Dean's Country Market is planning to move across the road to the Happel Addition, which would open up the existing Dean's building. The building is actually owned by Mason Foods, which would consider a lease arrangement with the city.
  • Property owned by the Sonnenbergs, south of the Conoco station. The site has a foundation in place, which would allow for construction of a 10,000 square foot facility--which is a size that has been considered optimal by liquor store manager Randy Hendrickx and Tony Stoll, of Baker, Hogan and Houx Architecture, who designed preliminary floor plans.

Store needs modernization
Hendrickx stressed the need for a more modern facility, with better delivery, storage and product handling; plenty of parking; and more space for display and merchandising.

"We need more unique items," said Hendrickx. "We have a lot of metro-area people coming up, and out-of-state visitors who are looking for more variety."

Currently, the city liquor store has about 4,000 square feet.

Sentiment is strong to keep the liquor store downtown, in an effort to sustain the long range vitality of the traditional downtown business district.

Two downtown area sites were "sleeper" prospects

The Helmeke building was initially discarded by the committee. But upon further discussion, task force members noted that one of the long range plans for Main Street was to extend retail toward the west. The Helmeke-Farmer's State Bank site would fit that strategy.

Meanwhile, the site across from Service Foods would involve several residential lots, mostly owned by the Schornacks. The concept of redeveloping the site surfaced only recently, said city economic developer Chuck Johnson. Dave Schornack is a member of the liquor store task force, but Johnson pointed out that the idea was suggested by a third party, and that Schornack was not promoting the idea specifically in his own self-interest.


Task force members were pleasantly surprised by the location, as it would be a draw toward downtown. Further, it would redevelop an older, less attractive residential area at a high-visibility gateway to Main Street.

"We have a very unique go to some small towns, and there's plywood on storefront windows," said Dave Still, manager of Service Foods. "Main Street is the nucleus of Perham."

"I'm concerned about sucking everything out to the highway," said Dr. Bill Rose. "I have a real concern for what happens downtown....we might as well as tear it down and move it all out to the highway."

Hwy location may

generate more sales

But the arguments for moving the store to a highway location remain compelling--from the standpoint of availability, accessibility, more space for parking, and a general view that the highway traffic would generate more sales.

Near Highway 10, these sites were removed from the task force list: the former mini golf lot; and a lot north and east of Pamida.

The former Hardee's site has not been on the table, because a possible purchase for a restaurant is pending.


Downtown sites that were essentially eliminated from consideration included the former Lakeland Veterinary Clinic on the west end of Main Street; the former Aune Auto building and lot; as well as the former NAPA and Kelly's Tavern sites.

Another meeting of the task force will be scheduled to continue the discussion, some time in October.

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