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Litchfield: High-visibility Main Street has potential to be ‘unforgettable’

Deeann’s Country Village Shoppe is located in downtown Litchfield. A newly formed group, the Litchfield Downtown Restoration Commission, is working to improve areas of Litchfield’s downtown to keep it a vibrant part of the community. In the last year, five new businesses have opened in downtown Litchfield. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

It’s hard to miss Litchfield’s downtown area: It’s right on U.S. Highway 12, and every day, more than 12,000 cars drive by the downtown storefronts.

That’s the reason Susan Johnson, owner of Very Vintage, decided to move her business to downtown Litchfield after three years in Delano, where she lives. In her opinion, the high visibility and heavy traffic outweighs the 45-minute commute she now makes four days a week.

“I love a town where the Main Street is busy like that,” she said. “Location is everything for a retail shop. You have to be visible to the public.”

However, the traffic and visibility also come with its own downsides. Parking in downtown Litchfield can be tricky, and some residents see the aging buildings as visually unappealing.

A newly formed group, the Litchfield Downtown Restoration Commission, hopes to improve these areas of downtown. The group has been accepted into the Minnesota Main Street program, which provides assistance and resources for cities to work on projects or fix up buildings.

The group is headed by Robyn Richardson, a history lover and concerned Litchfield resident. She took the lead on the restoration commission in the hopes of preserving the town’s historic business district.

“Some buildings are so bad that bricks are falling off the walls,” Richardson said. “I knew we had to do something.”

Tim Cook, a downtown realtor, also sits on the commission. He wants to contribute by actually doing projects, rather than talking about them. So far, the commission has already created a “pocket park” between two downtown buildings by clearing out brush, putting up a fence and finding an artist to create a mural on one of the walls.

The commission plans to work with the city and business owners to renovate the older buildings downtown. According to Richardson and Cook, they have unanimous support from the downtown business community.

“The iron is hot right now,” Cook said. “We’re at a tipping point with the deterioration of some buildings. At some point, we know they’re not going to be worth restoring anymore.”

The commission also wants to help attract new businesses downtown, which are starting to move again after rebounding from the economic recession. In the last year, five new businesses have opened in downtown Litchfield.

“The fundamentals are right again, and we want to use it to our advantage,” Cook said. “If we can do this, Litchfield has the potential to be an unforgettable experience.”

Johnson said that with a rise in new businesses, Litchfield could become even more of a retail destination for people in the area.

“We’ve got a very diverse combination of shops downtown already, and the more retail we add, the more of a destination we become,” she said. “I think people are tired of big box stores. People are promoting small businesses more, and they really want to buy things that are handmade and unique. That’s what we can offer them.”

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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