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What's new? What's next? Bemidji business scene blooming

With all the talk of recession in the past few years, we decided to take an upbeat look at Bemidji's business scene for a series of articles in a special section in today's Pioneer.

The theme we chose, "What's new, What's next," shows a bright side of the area's economy.

We sampled new and expanded business that have opened in the last 18 months, as well as some that are prepared to begin service or make their moves soon.

The Bemidji Regional Event Center, scheduled to open in October, is a big "next" for the area, but other enterprises also are on the horizon.

For example, Menards, a home-improvement store that bought property on Paul Bunyan Drive Northwest three years ago, is in the site preparation stage. The business also showed its community spirit by preparing 1.5 acres of original growth pine and hardwoods for a nature area as part of the project.

In downtown action, Harmony Natural Foods Coop is in the process of buying the former TruStar Federal Credit Union at 413 Third St. N.W. TruStar Federal Credit Union is one of the four banks that have built new or expanded branches along Paul Bunyan Drive Northwest, an area residents have nicknamed Bankers' Row.

The new Harmony location will also feature a new public radio station, KBXE, an expansion of the Grand Rapids, Minn., station KAXE.

Some start-ups are niche businesses, such as The Glass Shack, which sells stained glass, mosaic and beading supplies and offers craft classes, and The Bike Guy, a bicycle mechanic who makes house calls. Entrepreneurs such as these have taken a hobby or personal interest and made it into a business.

New family-owned restaurants have also opened in the last year-and-a-half. Mi Rancho and El Mariachi provide authentic Mexican cuisine. Toasty Beavers opened earlier this month and soon will expand with a dance floor and patio area. The Blue Ox Bar & Grill in Union Station will open its doors any day now and a new Subway is in the final stages of completion.

So many new ventures speak well of the confidence business owners have in Bemidji as a regional center and a place of prosperity.