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Carrie Snyder, Published December 26 2013

Your Town in Focus: Lake Park, Minn., gateway to the lakes

Head about 40 miles east from Moorhead on Highway 10 and you’ll see the Old Skool Malt Shop building, which boasts “great food, malt shop, buy and sell classic cars.”

Most people know this as a sign they are getting close to Detroit Lakes, Minn. But for the 881 people in Lake Park, they call it home.

Lake Park spans an area of about 620 acres in Becker County. The mostly Scandinavian population consists mainly of people younger than 18 and older than 65.

“We have lakes on all sides of us, and everyone drives on Highway 10,” said Abby Anderson, who has lived in Lake Park for 20 years. “We want people to step into Lake Park.”

The town last year opened a new, modern school that houses the Lake Park-Audubon seventh- through 12th-graders and can be seen from the main highway.

“There’s no comparison to the old school,” said Kevin Ricke, a principal at the school. “It’s a very user-friendly building. It’s well-lit with power-saver lights, and the temperature, air quality and water are all better.”

Although the population has grown over the years from 683 people in the 1960s to about 900 people today, the business district has seen a decline. The main street has a few businesses, such as Jeff’s Food Center, State Bank of Lake Park and the Lake Park Café.

“We’re a bedroom community,” Anderson said. “Most people drive out of town to work.”

Susan Herfindahl, 76, has lived in Lake Park for the past 53 years and has seen the community change.

“Years ago, everyone did your shopping right in town,” Herfindahl said. “You only went to Fargo once a year.”

Jeff Anglin, who co-owns Jeff’s Food Center with his brother Greg, has had a successful business in town since 1978. During the day, customers will stop in to pick up milk, laundry detergent or even lutefisk, which Anglin carries in bulk.

“We are one of the few grocery stores left in the area, and are well supported by the people in Lake Park,” Anglin said. “We’re able to hold our own even with big-box companies coming around. When people stop in they always say ‘thanks for being here.’ ”

The community is working hard to turn the district around, and businesses like Med-Pac have international work that has put Lake Park on the map.

“We build quick change medical interior for aircraft that have to be approved by the FAA,” said Ralph Braaten, owner of Med-Pac, who moved his business from Fargo to Lake Park after being approached by the Becker County Economic Development Authority.

“We are in places such as South America, Singapore and Australia. Lake Park isn’t just in Minnesota,” Braaten said.