Editor’s note: Because of COVID-19, the annual Business and Industrial Appreciation Day in Alexandria won’t be held this year and the spotlight will not shine on one particular business. Instead, throughout the month of October, newspaper articles, advertisements and social media posts will spotlight the importance of all business and industry to the local community.

By Tara Bitzan, director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

It has often been said that Alexandria provides small town charm with big town amenities, and that is definitely true when it comes to retail.

Douglas County residents can find everything they need, from groceries and personal products, to gifts and unique items, to a full array of home improvement and building supplies right here.

The Business and Industrial Appreciation Day (BIAD) honor was originally created for the manufacturing and distribution sector, but there was no denying that retail packs a powerful punch locally. Therefore, the retail sector was later added to the BIAD recognition program.

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Since then, several retailers have been recognized through the program, including Hilltop Lumber and Rental Center (2018), Carlos Creek Winery (2016), Trumm Drug (2015), Elden’s Food Fair (2011), Cullen’s Home Center (2008), Cowing Robards (2005) and Pete’s County Market/Cub Foods (2004).

Retail plays an important role in the community’s tourism industry, with unique boutiques, gift stores and antique stores filling up Broadway and beyond, attracting tourists from all over Minnesota as well as surrounding states.

The fact that Alexandria’s Broadway has few empty storefronts is a testament to its strong retail business. The larger general merchandise stores add to the community’s attraction by filling the needs of the local residents and regional shoppers.

Alexandria’s vibrant downtown and the plethora of retail supplies that can be found locally were part of the reason that Alexandria was named the 2018 Retail Community of the Year by the Minnesota Retailers Association (MnRA).

Another factor that played into the honor was the fact that local retailers realize that the area is more attractive to shoppers if it is full of retailers, so they can often be found supporting one another and engaging in group initiatives for the good of the entire community.

“What is truly unique about Alexandria is the retail experiences that are created as the community works together,” said Bruce Nustad, MnRA president when presenting the award. He added that business owners realize there is strength in numbers, which is what makes Douglas County a viable shopping destination.

Retail also played a major role in Alexandria being named the Best Minnesota Town in 2019 by Minnesota Monthly magazine.

Alexandria has always ranked high in its “pull factor” as well. A pull factor is something that draws people to a community. Past retail trade analysis and pull factor studies of Alexandria have consistently placed the community in the top 3 among similar sized communities in the state.

There is no denying that retail business is one of the reasons that the Alexandria lakes area is a top destination for residents and visitors alike.