Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Let’s brainstorm business ideas for an historic building in Lamberton February 18, 2015

IT’S BEEN AWHILE since I’ve thought of the historic 1892 former bank building in downtown Lamberton in my native southwestern Minnesota.

A side shot of the former bakery. Just imagine the possibilities for this spacious building. Let's hear your ideas.

A side shot of the former bakery. Just imagine the possibilities for this spacious building. Let’s hear your ideas. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The 3,250 square foot massive corner brick structure stands empty after a young couple was unable to secure financing to open Seven Sisters Coffee in the summer of 2013. The pair planned to transform the main floor into a community gathering space.

The Van Engens had planned to use the original lunch counter in their coffee shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from October 2012.

Plans were to reuse the original lunch counter in the coffee shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from October 2012.

They intended to serve food in the front section, which last housed long-time Sanger’s Bakery. The back room would serve as a venue for musical performances and the arts and as an event rental space. It seemed like a good idea.

But none of that came to fruition with the failed financing.

The yellow sign in the front window advertises the property for sale through Scenic City Realty.

The yellow sign in the front window advertises the property for sale through Scenic City Realty. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

So the building went on the market thereafter, priced at $37,000.

The property remains for sale today, but at a much lower price. It’s now listed at $17,000 by Mike Kaufenberg at Scenic City Realty in Redwood Falls. That drop in price might just be enough to lure a buyer.

The Van Engens began working on this back space last fall in an area intended for entertainment and an artists' haven.

The back room features exposed brick and a wood floor. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I don’t know the current condition of the building given its ongoing vacancy. But I still see the potential here. This place possesses character and history. It’s located in a small town along a major regional highway, U.S. Highway 14, also known as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway. Wilder’s childhood home of Walnut Grove lies only 11 miles to the west. Walnut Grove draws a lot of tourists, especially during the summer.

Now, back to the reason this property popped into my mind. Have you heard about Hoodstarter.com? Me either, until recently.

Seven young visionaries created this online avenue to identify and gather ideas for vacant storefront properties in the Twin Cities metro area. Folks can then vote on the top suggestions and help fund pitched proposals. It seems like a great idea. I think we’ve all passed vacant storefronts and wished for whatever to fill the spaces in our hoods (neighborhoods/communities).

The former Sanger's Bakery in Lamberton, a Minnesota farming community.

The former Sanger’s Bakery in Lamberton, a Minnesota farming community. The Sanger’s Bakery lettering is no longer on the front window. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Today I’m giving you the opportunity to share your ideas for the old bank building in downtown Lamberton. What do you envision for this property?

And if you contact Mike Kaufenberg at Scenic City Realty, tell him I sent you. Especially if you buy the property.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


38 Responses to “Let’s brainstorm business ideas for an historic building in Lamberton”

  1. I wish I had money because I would buy it and make a Museum out of it. The Olson Family Museum of Science and Industry. lol

  2. $17,000??? Oh my gosh, that seems so incredibly cheap to me compared to properties in my area. The mind reels at the possibilities! Some small town I was in had a restaurant in an old bank building called The Vault. “Little Cafe on the Prairie?” Oh do keep us posted on this one, I would love to see something cool happen here.

    • Properties in southwestern Minnesota are much more reasonably priced than your area for certain, but even compared to southeastern Minnesota where I live. And definitely a lot less than the Twin Cities metro.

      I, too, have seen old banks repurposed into restaurants or bars, etc. The Vault seems the perfect name.

      Walnut Grove has Nellie’s Cafe, but not a Little Cafe on the Prairie. That would be a great name for an eatery in that area.

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    The building certainly has character.

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    Wow! I canNOT believe that price!!! The building is gorgeous and appears to be in excellent restoration condition……..that exposed brick and wood flooring are amazing! It saddened me to see that couple fail in their attempt to get financing! In our area, 2 towns (Caledonia & Rushford) have opened coffehouses (Caledonia’s is a bakery, also, and there’s another bakery{only} right around the corner!!!!) in the last couple of years with smashing success. I know Lamberton has some hurdles but its proximity to nearby Walnut Grove would have given it some sustainability, IMHO!!!!! I’m familiar with the “Kickstarter” program but not the one you mentioned, although it sounds quite similar.

    • Yeah, the price is pretty sweet, isn’t it? The building needs work. But with a sale price like that…

      I like your idea of going the Kickstarter route. Pitch it right for the right business and the owner might get mega support from Little House and Laura fans.

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    What a great building and yes—I am sure there are some fabulous ideas for revamping it for new occupancy. I can’t wait to see what happens next! The price tag should lure someone in and what possibilities!!!

  6. 01rena Says:

    Would a daycare or preschool work? Seems to be on corner where folks would conveniently pass that direction anyway. They also have a kitchen already, so making good breakfast, lunch and snacks for the children right in the facility would be a bonus. Having many windows is a plus, as children need plenty of sunlight to grow like the beautiful flowers they are. I can’t tell if there is a decent parking lot which could be made into a play area… or if there is a playground/park nearby, where the children could walk to and enjoy on occasion. Of course, a Bistro with a used and new Book Nook might sound more appealing to us older folk.

    • Thanks for your suggestion, Rena. I don’t know if the population in Lamberton is young enough to sustain a preschool/daycare. The building takes up most of the lot, so no parking or playground space. However, the city park is nearby.

      I appreciate your ideas.

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    2 words: Chocolate Truffles

  8. Almost Iowa Says:

    What a wonderful idea!

    It’s too bad that Seven Sisters Coffee failed to obtain financing. It is very difficult for startups to leap the many regulatory hurdles thrown up in their way. In recent years, the legislature has been addressing these issues but we still have a long way to go.

    We all agree that regulation which protect the health and safety of the public should not be compromised but a lot of regulation serves no other purpose than to create a barrier to business.

    My son started a distillery after the legislature lowered the cost of a license from $40,000 to $4,000. It is that sort of thing that we need more of.

    How about a regulatory holiday for small businesses during their first few years?

  9. Pat in NW Iowa Says:

    There may not be enough people to support a coffee/snack shop? What about a bed and breakfast, and if that is not enough (since there is plenty of room), a place to hold quilt retreats, a fabric shop, longarm business, sewing classes…oh, all of those. (Smile)

    • That’s the question: Are there enough people to support FILL IN THE BLANK?

      I like your idea of a B & B combined with a quilting retreat center. There are not many hotels/motels near Walnut Grove, which draws a lot of tourists in the summer. Lamberton has a small motel. But otherwise, visitors to the area have to travel a ways to find a place to stay. I’ve known people who’ve had to drive 40 miles to find a place to stay after attending Little House events in Walnut Grove.

  10. I wish I had some extra cha-ching because it would make a great community art space 🙂 Beautiful building and hopefully someone with monies and vision will scoop this place up as soon as possible. Happy Hump Day!

  11. Don Singsaas Says:

    If those are apartments on the second story a bed and breakfast might work, with the first floor being a good spot for an antique shop. Hummm you’ve got my mind is thinking……………………………………………….

  12. Marneymae Says:

    Wow what a beautiful building!
    Could the folks who want(ed) to purchase the building create a cooperative business?
    Share the burden of the cost… Many hands (or pocketbooks?) make the work light(er) sort of thing?

  13. Marneymae Says:

    Another idea… Perhaps if it were to be a coffee shop sort of place, maybe it could become a bakery
    Using local flour
    (Check out Wide Awake Bakery in Ithaca, NY)

  14. JohnD. Says:

    Is this still inactive thread?

  15. JohnD. Says:

    I grew up in MN, IA and TX, and now live in NYC, but stay in touch with the goings-on of the Midwest. I hope I never get the Midwest out of my system.

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