Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Amboy: A thriving community in rural Minnesota February 5, 2014

Looking down Maine Street in Amboy, Minnesota.

Looking down Maine Street in Amboy, Minnesota.

FOLKS IN AMBOY understand the importance of building their community’s future, of distinguishing their town as a destination in rural Minnesota.

Merchandise displayed inside Oak Knoll Angoras' Acorn Studio. Lisa Lindberg, who owns The Amboy Cottage Cafe, owns this with her mother, Maria Lindberg.

Merchandise displayed inside Oak Knoll Angoras’ Acorn Studio. Lisa Lindberg, who owns The Amboy Cottage Cafe, owns this with her mother, Maria Lindberg. The studio sits just down the block from the cafe.

On a brief visit last July to Amboy, population 535 and located 20 miles south of Mankato, I discovered an inviting Maine (yes, that’s the correct spelling) Street defined by sturdy old brick buildings, quaint shops, a one-of-a-kind cafe, and a deep appreciation of history and the arts.

An artsy display inside Frame It Arts & Antiques, 112 East Maine Street.

An artsy display inside Frame It Arts & Antiques, 112 East Maine Street.

This is my kind of small town, one focused on showcasing local talent and history and all that makes Amboy a great community.

Signage on the fence at The Amboy Cottage Cafe lists downtown businesses.

Quaint signage on the fence at The Amboy Cottage Cafe directs visitors to downtown businesses.

Business owners and others clearly work hard to draw visitors off U.S. Highway 169 onto Maine Street. The Amboy Cottage Cafe initially drew my husband and me here for lunch while en route to Worthington in late July 2013.

Yarn for sale at Acorn  Studio.

Yarn for sale at Acorn Studio.

Afterward, we poked around in several downtown shops before heading out. We were short on time, or we would have explored more.

You'll find lots of businesses open in downtown Amboy.

You’ll find lots of businesses open in downtown Amboy.

Amboy deserves a second look, a few hours of time to check out the businesses and the rest of the town. In rural Minnesota, this community seems determined to survive and thrive, building on its strengths.

Amboy's Maine Street features mostly well-kept old brick buildings.

Amboy’s Maine Street features mostly well-kept old brick buildings.

The visually welcoming Sweet Cicely, a boutique offering fine gifts and natural health products.

The visually welcoming Sweet Cicely, a boutique offering fine gifts and natural health products.

Details like well-kept buildings without boarded up windows, pots overflowing with luscious flowers, welcome banners on Maine, a general overall tidy look and more visually impress.

Lisa Lindberg saved this old gas station from demolition, moved it onto a corner of Maine Street and restored it for use at The Amboy Cottage Cafe. The cafe features made-from-scratch food and draws diners from all over the region.

Lisa Lindberg saved this old gas station from demolition, moved it onto a corner of Maine Street and restored it for use as The Amboy Cottage Cafe. The cafe features made-from-scratch food and draws diners from all over the region.

And then there are the old buildings which have been saved, like The Amboy Cottage Cafe, once a gas station.

A group also saved the old elevator, now Grainspace LLC.

A group also saved the old elevator, now Grainspace LLC, located across the street from The Amboy Cottage Cafe.

Across the street, the old elevator, slated for demolition, was purchased by a group and is now being restored for use as an arts venue and community gathering spot.

This depot was moved into Amboy from Huntley and now serves as a welcome center for those attending the town's annual Arts 'n' More Festival.

This depot was moved into Amboy from Huntley and now serves as a welcome center for those attending the town’s annual Arts ‘n’ More Festival in September.

The Amboy Area Community Club is supporting restoration of an old depot relocated here from nearby Huntley.

An old country schoolhouse was moved into town, restored and is now an historical education center and site of special community events. The 1901 Dodd Ford Bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places, will be preserved. A historic home houses A Walk Back in Time bed and breakfast while another, Que Sera, serves as a retreat center.

Currently, a project is underway to convert the former Amboy Middle School into “The Junction,” a multi-purpose community building. (Click here to learn about that.)

Work in progress last July at this beautiful old creamery just off Maine Street.

Work in progress last July at this beautiful old (former) creamery just off Maine Street.

Although I didn’t check out all of these places, I saw enough to appreciate Amboy and the gumption of the folks who live here. They seem a determined bunch—determined to keep their community thriving in a time when all too many small towns are dying.

FYI: Click here to read my previous post on The Amboy Cottage Cafe. Please check back for one more post with photos from Amboy.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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