I was born and raised in Albert Lea, MN. A town surrounded by rural farming communities. You will only find a traffic jam in our great city during the Fourth of July parade which is held on the third of July rather than the fourth. You will also experience a traffic jam shortly after the fireworks which are held on the fourth of July.
Albert Lea was once home to a meat packing plant. It kept the town moving and grooving as one of the biggest employers in town. Several years ago it caught fire, and the damage was beyond repair. The company decided not to rebuild here and almost overnight the town’s population plummeted.
The downtown or uptown, depending on what your ancestors called it, was a booming happening place. I remember going to watch E.T. at the beautiful, bright, popcorn smelling, red-carpeted theater. I remember walking up and down the sidewalks holding my mom’s hand as we went into each store. On the corner was Herbergers the largest store in Albert Lea. It was the only building to ever have an escalator in town. The building is still there today, although the escalator is no longer running.
Slowly the downtown began to fade away. Along with the businesses the buildings also began to fade away. Perhaps it was the entrance of Wal-Mart into our town. Maybe it was progress or whatever you want to call it; our small town feel began to fade away.
It has been said that Albert Lea should be as big as the Twin Cities with two major Interstates intersecting on the edge of town. I am thrilled to report that our small town is once again beginning to thrive! We have long-standing businesses such as Mrs. Gerry’s, Jake’s Pizza, B&B, Elbow Room, and MCB. Companies who have been here for generations and are iconic Albert Leans.
Businesses such as:
The Taco King
The Homestead Boutique
New to You
Man Between the Lakes
Plymouth Shoe Store
Addie’s Floral and Gifts
and both Fisher’s Fine Jewelers and Stadheim Jewelers have both been around since I can remember.
We also have young entrepreneurs that are thriving, growing, and hiring within their business. These businesses have done an incredible job of helping the city brainstorm ways to breathe life back into our community. They are genuinely committed to making our town great! They sit on boards, committees and are bring positive solutions to Albert Lea.
Businesses such as:
Good Steward Consulting
It’s Worth It Massage Studio
Lindsay Kramer makes it easy for her clients to book appointments anytime. She has an easy peasy online booking. Visit her website to learn more about the massages she offers.
The One Twelve On Broadway
The Thirsty Fox
I also see companies such as Complete Property Management owned by our good friend Lanier Pratt. He is knowledgeable, committed to excellence, and is excellent at helping businesses find commercial spaces. His team also has residential rental homes available. What makes his team unique is their ability to take care of issues in-house that arise with properties. Their skilled craftsmen, plumbers, and carpenters know each of their properties from the roof to the basement floor. If you don’t see the ideal space for your endeavors, his team is skilled to create the perfect space for your business. The CPM Team has a get-the-job-done-right-the-first time mindset!
I also see Albert Lea offering classes to help entrepreneurs develop their overall business to be the best it can be! The ALEDA has developed a program called ALEAP. This non-profit organization helps individuals take their business from the dream stage to the first time the doors are opened to customers. Offering loans, collaboration, mentorship and community support.
It takes time, persistence, money, support and commitment of a community to shop locally to make a town thrive. If we want our city to grow, succeed, and to be a place we are proud to call home we have got to step up to make it such a place. It also takes stepping outside of our communities comfort zone to attempt and try new landscaping, road structures, and reorganization of the town.
I am thrilled at the growth of my beloved small town. I am proud of the young entrepreneurs who are putting themselves out there and doing the hard work of bringing awesomeness to Albert Lea. You’re doing a great job, keep it up! You have my full support!
Such a great way to highlight your hometown and share the great places that you love. Thanks for a glimpse into Albert Lea.
Beth Ann, it was a fun article to write. I love my small town and I want to shout from the roof tops all the great stuff my town is doing!
Beth Ann, thank you. I love our small town feel with big city culture.
Great article. Thank you for writing it. And thank you for including the pictures.
But I couldn’t disagree more on your valuation of Complete Property Management. He had us living without heat during November and December, which is illegal in Minnesota, and he blamed it on personal problems. He ran for city council and his reputation followed him to the ballot box, where he was roundly defeated.
Riley, I’m sorry that happened to you. My family has been through hard times as well and I understand the frustration you must have felt. We’ve lived in multiple rentals (at one time we had two adults and three kids in a two bedroom apt) and have had great landlords and not so great landlords. I’m sorry your experience was less than par. Thanks for feeling free to comment and I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve only had good interactions with them. Thanks again for commenting!
If you care to get the thoughts of some folks who witnessed Albert Lea around 45 years ago check out Lea College alumni posts from it’s site. Albert House, Chris Hall, Vic’s Pizza etc,etc.
Thank you, Kevin! I would love that! Understanding the rich history in our town is an incredible opportunity! I love knowing where we have come from and how we got here! Thank you for the suggestion! I have it written down!
Agree with Kevin, I also went to Lea College and I can tell you I have nothing but fond memories of the college life but also the people of Albert Lea. I found them friendly and inviting to us. Also the town and surrounding area. Beautiful lakes and parks. Thank you to all that live there and good luck to the revitalization. Sue Dugger Patterson
Sue, it is wonderful to hear of your fond memories of Lea College. I am excited to collect stories and hear more about this college that gave so many wonderful opportunities. I’m excited to hang out at the Alumni site and learn more!
I also spent four wonderful years in Albert Lea while attending Lea College. If not for Albert Lea and Lea College I would never have met my wife, Albert Lea was a wonderful place to experience my college years. Albert Lea allowed a kid from Chicago to learn what life in another state and in small town, thank you Albert Lea.
Paul, I am thrilled to hear your experience in Albert Lea all those years ago are remember with great memories! With so many stories of Lea College I absolutely have to do an article about it now! Was it hard to adjust to small town Albert Lea compared to big happenings in Chicago?
My Swedish great grandmother was from Albert Lea. My brother has many photos of her relatives with the name of of an Albert Lea photography place on them. No names of course. They would have been taken around the 1880’s or so. Her name was Caroline Petersen and married Andrew David Getman, my great grandfather, who traveled out that way from LaFargeville, NY (near Watertown, NY after his first wife died. He brought Caroline back to LaFargeville. I heard stories when I was much younger that Caroline was related to a former Duke of Sweden who was “stripped” of his title because he married a commoner.
Patti, that is a great story! Thank you for sharing your connection to Albert Lea!
My mom lives in Albert Lea, but I really had no idea all of these great small business and creators were there! I will reference this post in the future and check some of these places out! Thanks!
Thank you, Mary! Albert Lea has a Holiday Bazaar coming up downtown! They’ll be horse draw trolley rides, small businesses with booths, and the stores up and down Broadway will be open!