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Creating a 'rural hotspot': A dispatch from Windom

In between the major segments of our ongoing Rural Minnesota: Generation at the Crossroads series, we are posting interim pieces by or about young people we meet around the state. Mari Harries, 28, found us through our online form (Are you under 25 and living in Minnesota? We have some questions for you). "I'm not under 25," she wrote, "but I feel I fit perfectly into what you are trying to do. She's abolutely right. For more from Harries, visit her blog at my $.02: Finding Windom.

I just quit my full-time administrative-assistant position to open a local gathering place for my small rural community called River City Eatery in my hometown of Windom. I bought an old building on our downtown square that has been empty for years, and I'm rejuvinating it with the help of family and friends. I am married to a wonderful man who is letting me chase my dreams of opening an eatery and coffee shop. We live in an old house close to downtown Windom with our 1-year-old son, Henrik.

Mari Harries
Courtesy of Mari Harries
Mari Harries

My family is what brought me back to Windom after college. I admit I never wanted to come back and thought I would be living in New York City by now. Then I met my husband, found a job that paid my bills, and decided to try to make my community the place I think it has the potential to be: a rural hotspot.

We have some amazing things here in Windom, but no one knows much about us here. There could be a little sprucing up, you know, easy stuff though often ignored. I love this place, the quality of life, the pace, the people, and the opportunity that I can create for myself.

My relationship with Windom is a good one, but it hasn't always been good. Growing up here, I hated it and wanted nothing more than to leave. It took me too long to realize how great Windom is and all the great things it has to offer guests and residents alike. I organized a Community Pride Day for Windom Area Schools to show our K-11th-grade students all the great things I see and appreciate in Windom. I don't want it to take as long as it took for me to appreciate Windom and realize there is opportunity here.

My hope is that Windom will start to attract younger people and creative people looking for a place to do their art. I want our beloved downtown square to be appreciated and thriving with small businesses, consumers, travelers and kids.

I started a nonprofit organization called, Finding Windom, which is an organization dedicated to community revitalization, while trying to make moving back to Windom "cool." Growing up in Windom there was always an expectation that you had to leave to be successful and if you stayed or moved back it was because you couldn't handle it "out there in the real world." It's not true!

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Comments (2)

Windom is lucky to have someone like Mari promoting Windom as a place for young people! I recommend patience and persistence!

Mari - Kudos to you for having the courage to take the plunge into owning a new business. I was born in Windom and visited my mother when she lived at Mikkelsen Manor 10 years ago. The best restaurant in town then was the Chinese restaurant in the former bank building.

So I'm excited to see that Windom will have a new option. I remember when the Driftwood Supper Club was the place to go around 1960.

I would appreciate more details - like which building around the Courthouse did you buy? Former Ann's Dress Shop? And when do you anticipate opening for business?

Looking forward to dining in River City Eatery on a future trip to SW MN to visit family.