Destination Downtown Contest Reaches The Final Three
“Destination Downtown is a community initiative that is all about downtown revitalization,” said Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian.
The first phases of the contest started back in July when 13 storefronts in downtown Brainerd were empty, but 49 applicants had other ideas for that space.
“We narrowed down those 49 to ten. Those ten then worked with the small business development center and got a lot of coaching and a variety of other businesses helped as well. Now, those were narrowed down to three and those three have presented to the judges like a Shark Tank-style presentation,” Kilian said.
One of the businesses remaining would bring a new concept to Brainerd. Lisa Desrocher, co-owner of the Brainerd Distilling Company, said, “For a micro-distillery we have two different licenses. We will be able to manufacture spirits on site and we will also be able to have a tasting room where we can feature the spirits that we manufacture.”
Desrocher is thrilled that the Brainerd Distilling Company is still in the running.
“It really was a surprise, Bill and I had this dream of owning our own business, and when the contest came up, it was a good opportunity for us to start exploring our idea and we never thought we would end up in the final three,” Desrocher said.
Joining the top three is Brenda Billman-Arndt with her Purple Fern Bath Company, a bath and body boutique. “The second part of the business is incorporating classes so people can learn how to do their own soaps, salts and bath bombs. Everybody loves bath bombs,” said Billman-Arndt.
She soon hopes to make a downtown business with what is currently a hobby. “It’s a huge step up, absolutely a huge step up. I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve dreamt of owning my own business for my life time and I really feel like this is the right business at the right time,” Billman-Arndt said.
Of the remaining top three finalists in the Destination Downtown contest, the only one with a current business in downtown Brainerd is the Last Turn Saloon.
“The business plan for the Last Turn Saloon is to expand the size of the dining area and to add some meeting space as well as a microbrewery,” said Ed Matteson, owner of Last Turn Saloon.
He’s hopeful about the future of this historic downtown location. “I’m excited that they like my plan, just to have that pat on the shoulder, ‘good job, you are going the right direction’ is helpful,” Matteson said.
The winner will receive a community prize package worth more that $50,000 to jump-start their business or expansion.