Is this what momentum feels like?

by Julia Jacobsen

This last weekend my family spent the day tearing down an old hay shed. My job was to feed the crew lunch and be a Gopher for tools that would make the job even easier. At the end of the day it was clear the project was not going to be complete and we would all be returning on Sunday to finish what we started. As the day came to an end I knew the crew would be tired and hungry and I hadn’t prepared for a dinner meal. In the big scheme of things I realize the crew would survive a drive home on an empty belly but I also knew that we had a new pizza place in town and there was time to swing by and grab some pizzas to go. This is my superpower, I feed people. I enjoy doing it and it’s a way to show the people that choose to show up for us that we appreciate them. Having an option at the end of the day to run to town and grab hot pizza was such a blessing.

Harrington Building

This little farming community that I’m from is experiencing momentum in a wave that we haven’t had in quite some time. The 80’s were rough on rural areas. As a kid growing up here I had no clue about the businesses that closed their doors or the impact that would have on my community in the decades ahead. I have memories of getting out of school and heading down to the drugstore to buy candy. That big heavy door with the large bell on the front that would let the shop owner know he had a customer. I can remember the sound of that bell like it was yesterday even though the drugstore has been closed for years and years. Over time more businesses shut their doors in this town, some shut long before I ever came along. I never knew as a kid that the large brick building on the corner was ever an impressive hotel back in its day. There are several buildings in Harrington that I’ve only known as boarded up brick and mortar. This is not unique, this is the landscape across rural America.

What we have happening in current time is momentum and I almost hate to speak of it out loud. Like I might jinx it. It’s a feeling that my generation hasn’t felt in a long time. Is this what momentum feels like? We have a coffee shop in town that has been thriving upon opening its doors, a new gift shop that showcases local artists, a marketplace for vendors to consign and tip toe into the reality of their own dreams of setting up shop and now the local tavern has been revived. When I say this place has been revived this is no joke! It wasn’t but a year ago that it was a shell of a space, no roof, you could peek through the windows and see straight into the open space behind the building. There are also businesses that operate outside the city limits that are bringing life back to this community. A dairy that hosts events and I understand there’s talk of a farmers market in this space over the summer months. A local coffee roaster that never officially got their “open house” due to Covid, in fact many of the new businesses popping up have done so while juggling restrictions and temporary shutdowns.

The Historic Hotel is being resurrected right before our eyes, there is an attached storefront that is nearing the completion phase which means more opportunity, more choices. Having a choice in a small town feels like a breath of fresh air. We live amongst wide open spaces for a reason but living in a rural community comes with a price as well. This momentum we are on makes that price feel less inflated. Thank you to all the business owners in these areas; past and present. The ones that have never closed, to the new business owners and to any in between that gave it a shot. Setting up shop in a small community does not go unnoticed, you are helping our communities be communities again.

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