Downtown Crookston certainly has been a hot-button topic on the local news scene for years, with task groups formed in an attempt to secure its vital future, and the latest such group coming up with an approach that focuses on making downtown a residential housing hub to jump-start greater activity. Most recently, it's been the Downtown Square that has spurred the most attention.
Mostly, though, when downtown Crookston is in the headlines, it's because of a business opening, a business closing, or a business exiting downtown in favor of dreams of bigger and better things on the city's bustling north end.
The latest news on downtown involves a little bit of just about all of that, with Tim and Kim Persson, owners of the former Elite Video and Audio building (initially known as The Movie Gallery) tucked between Arby's and the Holiday station, reaching a deal with State Farm Insurance agent Andy Oman. Everything was signed on Wednesday and, as a result, Oman will be moving the State Farm office from its longtime home on South Broadway to the former Movie Gallery building. As for the Perssons, they're purchasing Oman's building, as well as the building immediately to its south, also owned by Oman, that was most recently home to the Mexican Gordita Market – which recently moved to the former Videos on Broadway location on North Broadway.
Although they don't have a set timeline and Kim Persson stressed to the Times that "nothing is set in stone," the Perssons hope to rent out the State Farm office space to a willing tenant, and she said they're "willing to work with people" if a potential tenant requires some renovations. As for the former Gordita Market location, the Perssons are envisioning opening a laundromat there.
As for the housing angle, Kim Persson said they're planning to renovate the apartments upstairs as well.
Oman plans on having more than his insurance agency in his new home to the north, too, a space he acknowledges is too large for his needs. His wife, Linnea, owns and operates a massage business, known as Red River Massage, and she will be moving into the back portion of the building. She currently rents a room at JJ's Bodyshop, but Andy Oman said his wife has been looking to grow her business and will welcome the additional space and exposure. "She's trying to ramp things up a little bit, and this will be a good fit for her," Andy Oman said.
There's a large conference room space in the building that he said he's looking to utilize as a community meeting room space, or potentially for some insurance seminars, defensive driver courses, long-term care workshops or estate planning sessions coordinated by attorneys.
Page 2 of 2 - Oman also plans on growing his insurance operation. He said he's planning on hiring another agent or agent-in-training, and would like to bring one or two interns in each year, potentially U of M, Crookston students.
"There's too much space, but I think if we do it right we can utilize it pretty well," he said.
But he's open to thinking about more. As part of the deal, Oman said he has right of first-refusal on purchasing the parcel between his soon-to-be home for State Farm and Holiday, a parcel at which the Perssons, owners of Northern Lumber, currently store some building materials. "Tim's goal is to get that material out of there," Oman said, adding that he's thinking about the possibility of adding onto the current building by utilizing the vacant parcel to the south. "I've thought of some franchises to bring in myself or with a partner," he said, mentioning Papa Murphy's take-and-bake pizza as a possibility.
Oman hopes to start some interior renovations on his new location in a couple weeks, and his optimistic goal is to be moved by March 1.