Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part VII: The character of Clear Lake, Iowa June 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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CLEAR LAKE IS AN IOWA town with character.

Downtown Clear Lake offers an abundance of locally rooted eateries.

Downtown Clear Lake offers an abundance of locally rooted eateries.

It’s memorable in the sort of way that’s good. Main Street good. Welcome to our town good. Meander through the shops, dine in home-grown eateries good.

Relaxing outside a Clear Lake floral and gift shop, The Red Geranium.

Relaxing outside a Clear Lake floral and gift shop, The Red Geranium.

People watch. Kick back on a bench. Dip your toes in the lake or dig them into sand.

Even the backs of buildings possess visual charm.

Even the backs of buildings possess visual charm.

Fish or shop. While away a day or two. Take in the local history of the Surf Ballroom. Or simply amble downtown, right into a Norman Rockwell type scene.

Larson's Mercantile, like an old-fashioned five-and-dime, has a back corner devoted to fabric.

Larson’s Mercantile, like an old-fashioned five-and-dime, has a back corner devoted to fabric.

Walk the aisles of the mercantile.

Hanging baskets line the alley behind Larson's Mercantile.

Hanging baskets line the alley behind Larson’s Mercantile.

Take the back route through the alley.

Order a treat from South Shore Sweet Spot, shaped like an ice cream cone.

Order a treat from South Shore Sweet Spot, shaped like an ice cream cone.

Eat ice cream. Drink beer. Grab a burger.

From a window side counter (common in Clear Lake eateries) in a downtown restaurant, I photographed these guys crossing Main Avenue.

From a window side counter (common in Clear Lake eateries) in a downtown restaurant, I photographed these guys crossing Main Avenue.

Come in your cowboy hat or no hat.

Something I've never seen until visiting Clear Lake: a drive-through liquor store.

Something I’ve never seen until visiting Clear Lake: a drive-through convenience/ liquor store.

Clear Lake beckons with Americana charm rooted in character and small town Iowa friendliness.

FYI: This concludes my seven-part series on Clear Lake. Check back for more posts from my recent overnight visit to Iowa.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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30 Responses to “Part VII: The character of Clear Lake, Iowa”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    Fabulous series

  2. robynneblack63 Says:

    Thankyou Audrey, I really enjoyed the virtual tour of Clear Lake. I’ll be back for a more thorough look. Ta for sharing.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    OK, I just know that the fabric photo was for me………!!!!! I sure miss the Ben Franklin stores that used to be found in many of the nearby towns (ex. La Crosse)! Mercantiles are THE best!!!!! Clear Lake is the quintessential “large small town”…….it seems to contain the best of both and has the added bonus of the beautiful lake/parks in its midst. I/we have not done as much “poking around” there as you have but enough to know it’s a sweet town. Back alleys share so much of what the ‘heart’ of a community really is. Loved the series!!!!!

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    When headed down to Clear Lake yesterday. My wife wanted to stop by Larson’s Mercantile for her quilt shop tour. Apparently, if she visits a quota of Iowa quilt shops, she is entered in a drawing for a sewing machine. I dunno, it doesn’t make sense to me but I like the road trips. Given how hot the day was, I spent the afternoon on the beach with a book. Next time I will bring a swimming suit and rent a sailboat. 🙂

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    What fun! I loved this series. Thank YOU!

  6. Great series. I will definitely have to visit this area sometimes.

  7. What a fun set of photos!

  8. You know what struck me about the town in general, but especially, the rear view of the building and the shot of the alley? Cleanliness! No litter, no trash on the ground or hanging out of dumptsers, just plain cleanliness. That’s small town America.

    • That’s an interesting observation, and so true of Clear Lake. Visual appearances make a lasting impression. I’ve been in communities where cigarette butts litter the sidewalk and in another where the sidewalks are so uneven I had to watch my feet lest I trip. In my own community of Faribault, I’ve seen alley dumpsters (visible from the street) overflowing with garbage. These things do not give favorable impressions. Again, it’s in the details.

  9. Janelle Parry Says:

    Dear Audrey,
    Your series on Clear Lake was such a delight and warmed my heart that there is still so much community in the small towns and they are not places you drive through or drive by. Refreshing. I hope to visit there soon. I think your blog could be their “Tourist Information Brochure”. Thank you so much for all that you share.

  10. Jackie Says:

    I going along on your tour of Clear Lake, it’s looks like a fun and unique little town, someday i may need to have a little road trip and spend some time checking it out 🙂

  11. Don Says:

    Audrey, excellent series! I enjoyed every picture, commentary and comment. I hope you find another small town interesting enough to do a series on! Alas I am truly home sick……………..

  12. Sue Ready Says:

    I so enjoyed your thoughtful series highlighting the beauty and charm of small town Clear Lake. Hope there was some feedback from the Chamber with these wonderful observations and great photos. Your blog postings were a great way to give readers a taste of small town life.


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