Alexandria has been singled out as the state's Retail Community of the Year.
The city was presented with the award Tuesday in St. Louis Park by the Minnesota Retailers Association, beating out dozens of other applicants from across the state as part of the 2018 Minnesota's Retail Champions program.
"We were thrilled," said Pam Botker of Creative Touch Botique, who is president of the Alexandria Downtown Merchants Association. She accepted the award along with Tara Bitzan, executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.
"Alexandria has a unique energy going on right now," Bitzan said, crediting the support businesses receive from other businesses.
"Instead of competing against each other, businesses are teaming up in many ways and working together for the good of the entire community," she said. "The impact of that has definitely been a positive thing for our community."
Botker said the success of each business helps make Alexandria's retail scene grow.
"We've been working really hard to keep our downtown alive," she said, praising the relationships the Downtown Merchants have with the city, the Chamber and Explore Alexandria. "Like I say on my soapbox, we all have to play in the sandbox together and work together as a team. We have to have a vibrant community to keep them coming."
Alexandria is known as a destination shopping location. That reputation was dealt a blow this year when two big retailers who drew shoppers from a wide area, JCPenney and Herberger's, closed their stores at Viking Plaza Mall.
However, Botker said the city's retail picture is more than just those two stores, and one advantage Alexandria has is its downtown is strong while some other downtowns are not.
"Losing them was huge, and they're a big part of Alexandria," she said of the two chain stores at the mall. "But shopping as a whole is changing. The mall is very much a part of our community, but so is the downtown."
Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, cited Alexandria's unique partnerships and cooperation. In addition to the entities Botker listed, Nustad added the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, community and civic organizations, retailers and others.
"(They) all work in concert to make the area a strong destination for shoppers," he said. "What is truly unique about Alexandria is the retail experiences that are created as the community works together."