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Let's Visit McIntosh: Revival and Reinvention of a Small Town

Twelve years ago, McIntosh, Minnesota's downtown was a row of shuttered storefronts on dilapidated buildings. Today it looks much different and it's all because of one woman with big ideas, the gumption to follow thru with them and the ability to inspire others to get on board with a new way of  thinking.  

Andrea Stordahl moved to McIntosh when her husband's parents needed assistance on their organic dairy farm.  They found themselves re-evaluating what they really wanted out of life and considering how to make those goals happen.  Choosing to invest their time and money in McIntosh, a community with a population just over 600, they began transforming the tiny community.  Her interior design business Minnesota Rust was the first downtown space she and her husband renovated.  Shortly after, stores including The Red Poppy, The Beauty Room, and Howard Soap Company followed her lead.  Today, amonth other new developments, a new art-centered psychotherapist is in the process of opening a business downtown.  It all happened because one woman had the courage to think beyond the here and now while still honoring the historical culture of her new hometown. 

 I think what's happening in these small rural communities is we're changing generations right now...There was a generation before us who were all agriculture. A lot of people stayed at home to raise children, and we really want to honor how they lived and the things that they held dear - going into the cafes and meeting up town and, you know, shaking dice for coffee, but still kind of bring it into our generation as well so we can keep more people here and retain people who have a large skill set...We're trying to create an experience. So when you leave your hopefully like," wow, that was really an inspiring trip. It was worth us all coming to McIntosh!"

Toby Strom has been the mayor of McIntosh for six years.  He grew up in the community and remembers well when the general store, bakery and other businesses closed up shop.  In this segment, he discusses how seeing things from a new perspective gave him hope for the future of the community he's loved his entire life.

Let's Visit McIntosh: Mayor Toby Strom

A common challenge, no matter where a person calls home, is quality childcare.  That challenge is enhanced drastically for families living in rural communities.  After graduating from college at NDSU, Nicole Cook returned home to McIntosh where she opened an in-home childcare business while her husband pursued his career in school administration. Being a home provider presented some challenges as the years went by. 

When I was a home provider... you can only have so many babies and so many school kids before and after school. And it got really hard to serve all the families that I had because someone that maybe has two school age kids also has a three year old, and then they're expecting too. But I already have my two baby slots filled...And that's where it got really hard for some families where they had to find somewhere else to bring their baby until my spot openned up a couple months later... it just got really hard to basically make everyone happy while keeping my family first in our own home. - Nicole Cook

So, she and her husband began searching for a space to start a larger daycare center so she could better serve her clients.  They ultimately renovated an out of business bar into what is now the Clubhouse Childcare Center.  She serves 78 children and employs 20 people.  It's become a new meeting place for the community - what once was a meeting place for people drinking is now a meeting place for people parenting. 

When we had our open house, I had the sweetest compliment from an older gentleman from McIntosh. He came in and he was looking around and he goes," you know, I hope that all these little kids make us good memories, as I did here." And it was just the best compliment, because it was a good way to look at it. You know, it was one chapter closing, but a new chapter opening.  So he kind of had the right way to look at it...The whole town has completely changed! - Nicole Cook

Let's Visit McIntosh: Nicole Cook

Katie Roed never thought she'd move to a rural community after she graduated from college.  Successful in the marketing and communications sector, she travelled extensively visiting clients across the United States, fulfilling their marketing needs.  In a somewhat surprise twist, Katie found herself in rural McIntosh.  Thanks to high-speed internet, she was able to start her own marketing firm from her home on Lake Sarah.  Today, she works with clients on both coasts and does it from the comfort ease of rural living, able to balance family and work at a pace that works beautifully for both.  Her company, SugarBrooke Creative, caters to high end clients including Microsoft, Dun & Bradstreet, and Digi-Key.  Her marketing prowess helped navigate the progress of the new downtown McIntosh and she couldn't be more excited about the new life breathed into her community.  

When you're looking at revitalizing a town, you neednot just new ideas, ou need people to open their eyes, open their hearts and their minds to these new ideas...if you can create an experience for people and give them reasons to come out, that's going to help. And that's part of what I would I help with, is giving people a reason - coming up with fun, cool events where people can come into town and not just shop, but they can hang out and they can chat for a while. - Katie Roed

Let's Visit McIntosh: Katie Roed

Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.