Efforts to fill downtown Hallock, Minnesota, buildings with local businesses nearly complete
Efforts to fill buildings in downtown Hallock, Minnesota, have been ongoing since 2014, and years of work are paying off as the last empty building on Hallock’s main street, Second Street, will be occupied later this summer.
HALLOCK, Minn. – While Hallock has grown smaller in population over the last couple of decades, some say the downtown of the community is the most vibrant it has been in 40 years.
“When you visit Hallock today versus 40 years ago, you kind of see those changes,” said Paul Blomquist. “Obviously it’s taken time, but when you see those changes, you kind of go ‘Wow, Hallock is doing something different.’”
Efforts to fill buildings in downtown Hallock — a town of approximately 900 residents in far northwest Minnesota — have been ongoing since 2014, and years of work are paying off as the last empty building on Hallock’s main street, Second Street, will be occupied later this summer, says Blomquist, owner of C&M Ford and founding member of Hallock Main Street, a board of community members working to revitalize downtown Hallock.
In 2014, a group of concerned community members met to draft a strategic plan for the town to address community needs, and one identified need was filling the empty buildings in downtown Hallock. From that strategic plan came Hallock Main Street.
When the effort to fill downtown started, there were six or seven empty buildings, said Blomquist.
The first order of business for Hallock Main Street was to tear down a downtown building that was in bad shape.
“That’s where we saw we could make some progress and saw that we could be an entity to be reckoned with,” said Kevin Waller, president of Hallock Main Street and a City Council member. “People in the city took notice of it as well because it was something tangible that you can see.”
That was the beginning of the work, and slowly, the group has helped fill downtown buildings. Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hallock Main Street also held regular, informal community meetings to inform the community of downtown progress and answer questions.
Now, Hallock has many downtown businesses, including a brewery, coffee shop, wine bar, barber shop, flower shop, women’s boutique and home and gift shop. Recently, BB Diversified, a manufacturing company based in Roseau, Minnesota, expanded to Hallock.
Beverage tourism has been a driver of economic activity in Hallock, says Blomquist. Far North Spirits, a whiskey distillery, has been open since 2013. In 2017, craft brewery Revelation Ale Works opened its doors in downtown Hallock and in 2019, Last Chance Trading Post, a wine bar, also opened downtown.
“That has given us a brand and identity that people appreciate a lot,” said Blomquist.
He says the town is especially busy on Saturdays, when Far North’s cocktail room is open.
Far North Spirits sells its products across the United States. Owner Cheri Reese says when she talks to out-of-town visitors in the cocktail room on the weekends, many come to see the operations at Far North, but stay for the weekend when they make the trip.
“Some people are coming from as far away as the Twin Cities, and I think because we’re so remote and because we’re so small, the fact that we are here at all is just kind of a curiosity,” she said.
While in Hallock, visitors stay in local lodging, buy gas and grab a drink at other businesses in town, says Reese.
“I think it’s remarkable to them that a town of fewer than 1,000 people can have such a vibrant beverage tourism scene,” said Reese.
And for those looking for employment, says Blomquist, Hallock has a lot to offer, especially for starting a business.
“We used to have four implement dealers, and now we’re down to zero,” he said. “There’s so many business opportunities if that a person wanted to start (a business), it’s a good place to start it.”
According to Reese, many of the new businesses that have popped up in Hallock in the last few years are owned by women, including Revelation Ale Works, Last Chance Trading Post, Bully Brew Coffee and Sew Tori, a seamstress shop. She could not pinpoint exactly what makes the town so supportive of women in business, but said it was cool to see.
“There’s a permission for creativity here that you might not find in other towns this size, where it’s okay to do something that’s maybe a little quirky, a little off the beaten path,” said Reese.
In the 2020 census, Hallock’s population dropped to 906 from 2010’s count of 981. In 2000, the population was 1,196. But even as Hallock’s population decreases, Blomquist says he has noticed that young people in town have a renewed sense of pride, which makes him feel like the town is moving in the right direction.
“There’s a new, young energy and new, young group of people in Hallock that are very proud, and that, as much as filling the last building, makes me proud because there’s another generation that wants Hallock to continue its path that it has been on,” said Blomquist.