Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 23, 2006, Herald Journal

Can Dassel be a little Excelsior?


Dassel City Administrator Myles McGrath has an interesting vision for Dassel’s downtown.

Instead of making the downtown into what small towns were like 50 years ago, or into an entity that tries to compete with the likes of Wal-Mart, it could become like Excelsior, except on a smaller scale.

Dassel already has a head start with its two art galleries, antique stores, Latte Da Coffee Shop, Thistlerose Tea Shoppe, museums, and the Dassel Cokato Performing Arts Center, McGrath pointed out. Sprinkle in a few boutiques, florists, craft shows, farmers market, and maybe a few outdoor music festivals, and voila, you have a draw for the arts crowd.

There are shops in Excelsior that sell nothing but ice cream cones or popcorn and candy. During the summer there are cafes, coffee shops and bars where patrons sit outside at little tables on the sidewalk and enjoy the fresh air.

My husband and I go to Excelsior about three or four times a year, and McGrath is right. Dassel could do that too. The only thing missing is that the downtown of Excelsior is directly on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, while downtown Dassel is west of Spring Lake by several blocks.

McGrath outlined his vision at a Dassel Chamber of Commerce meeting Jan. 10 at Hojies Grill & Smokehouse. He said he wanted to get a conversation started about what people from Dassel want for their downtown, especially those who own property downtown.

Someone else might have a vision of Dassel being an agricultural center. Another person might want Dassel to be a hub for medical, health and wellness businesses. Another Dassel property owner might want the city to draw hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, off-the-road vehicle drivers and other sportsmen. Other residents might want Dassel to be a retirement center, where people enjoy leisure and volunteer activities as senior citizens.

McGrath and the chamber of commerce set Tuesday, Feb. 7 in Dassel City Hall for a brainstorming meeting about what property owners want for Dassel.

Cokato had advertised a similar get together, organized by City Council Member Phil Haataja, Jan. 12 at the Cokato Centennial room.

It’s much easier to achieve a goal if you have one. It also is easier to create a common goal if people talk about their visions with each other.

McGrath and Haataja are on to something here.

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