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Wendy Reuer, Published November 30 2012

New stores invigorating Fargo’s 8th Street business districts

FARGO - An influx of new storefronts at Eighth Street and Main Avenue is infusing one of the oldest business districts in town with new life.

Redoux, a rustic reclamation shop for home decor and furniture opened at 5 8th St. S. on Nov. 15.

About the same time, Reed & Taylor Antiques relocated from Broadway to the block, along with Below, an art gallery.

European Market, which offers treats and specialties from across the pond, opened last month.

And more storefronts are expected to open soon.

“It is very surprising,” said Lee Watkins, third-generation owner of Dakota Business College. “It seemed it happened almost overnight with the putting in of diagonal parking.”

Redoux, Reed & Taylor, Below, Waxed, Downtown Diva, the studio, and 8th Street Barber Service, among other smaller artisan studios and shops, are located inside former buildings of the Dakota Business College.

The building’s classic historical architectural is what draws many to the space, including Turtle Shell owner Mark Bratlie.

“This building is a great place to work in,” Bratlie said.

For Annie Poitra, owner of Redoux, the unique space drew her from a small shop in Detroit Lakes, Minn., to Fargo, as did the special fellowship among the business owners.

She said the many studios and art-related businesses on the block seem to have brought together kindred spirits who look forward to their neighborhood growing.

“We want to help each other so it becomes a destination, an art community,” she said.

Poitra offers one-of-a-kind home décor items she reclaims and refinishes. What began as a hobby for the Hawley, Minn., resident turned into a full-time job when her items became popular at her small Detroit Lakes shop.

The Dakota Business College building, which was founded by Watkins’ grandfather in two rooms at 11 8th St. in 1891, was originally a Masonic Temple built in 1884.

A three-story addition to the school was built in about 1907, creating the “Watkins Block” at 806 Main Ave.

The college closed in 1978, and the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mike Hahn, president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership, said the neighborhood is part of the “original Fargo,” an area left untouched by the infamous Great Fire of 1903.

The fire ravaged most of downtown Fargo, including many businesses along Broadway, City Hall and the homes of nearly 6,000 residents.

Although Broadway may get much of the fame as being “downtown Fargo,” Hahn said the Eighth Street businesses are still considered a part of Fargo’s downtown heart.

Hahn said the architecture on Eighth Street – a mixture of brick and original wood buildings – and the eclectic set of businesses give it its own appeal.

And people are flocking to it.

“It’s great because the Eighth Street and Main area kind of has a real neighborhood feel to it,” Hahn said. “It has a different charm to it than you would have along Broadway. I can’t really describe what the difference is. I think it has something to do with the (smaller) square footage of the businesses.”

Watkins attributed much of the growth and neighborhood traffic to Nichole’s Fine Pastries at 13 8th St.

Nichole’s Fine Pastries opened in 2003 after remodeling the shop first built as an ice cream parlor named The Dutch Maid. The Dutch Maid closed in 1991 after 57 years in business.

Nichole’s is a local favorite as a place to relax and enjoy a fine dessert or gourmet sandwich.

Works of Light, Inside 515, Total Picture and Interior Design Group, and east-side businesses Molar Barber College and Lifetime Antique round out the block.

Arctic Audio, at 14 8th St., is on the market. The home entertainment consultants are hoping to expand, but no sales have been finalized.

The corner of Eighth Street and Main will soon undergo a renovation

The Kennelly O’Keefe Law Firm will soon relocate to the corner space of 720 Main Ave. Chris Kennelly said the building is undergoing a complete renovation.

While the city targeted Eighth Street for renovations in 1981 by adding apartments and refinishing many of the buildings on the east side, recent renaissance efforts have focused on Broadway, Hahn said.

He said even though Broadway will continue to be a focus of downtown Fargo, areas such as the Eighth Street district will also be marketed as a destination for downtowners.

“We also need to look at expanding our downtown district,” he said. “These little neighborhoods really provide a unique neighborhood feel that complements the downtown district as a whole.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530