let’s talk about rochester again and my and my mom’s perception of it as outsiders coming in.
(it’s good to preface this by saying that we’ve decided to rename rochester “dumpyville”.)
in many larger towns throughout MN, you know what you’re getting from the town. st. cloud is mostly working class; mankato and moorhead (fargo) are pretty much the same. duluth is good looking and a tourist destination, and the cities are a mix of high-end destinations and shopping meccas.
rochester is an enigma.
on the one hand, this is the largest out-state city in the state, home to 106,000 people. it’s a destination for many people seeking high-end medical care, and those working for mayo definitely know it. on the other hand, this town has a lot of people who don’t work at mayo, and it seems like the town wants to sweep those people under the rug and not acknowledge them.
it’s my theory that this town is still mentally at a population of 25,000 in the year 1960 and doesn’t want to budge past that.
the downtown is pretty, filled with mayo buildings and some supporting high end restaurants and hotels. there are some clothing stores where the clothes cost more than my paycheck, specialty stores, and a drug store. Drive down the road to st. mary’s hospital, and you’ll find a lot of privately owned stores, restaurants, and hotels along the way.
then the bubble busts.
after downtown, it seems like everything is willy nilly all over the city. stores and restaurants where working-class chumps like myself would frequent are located in the oddest spots. the main thoroughfare through town is actually the 6-lane hwy 52, so you’d wonder if that had anything to do with the odd placement. but fargo has I-29 running right through it, and they manage to serve up a decent location of its stores, eating establishments, and destinations.
and it’s not for lack of stores. there are two walmarts, two targets, two menards, as well as additional home improvement stores, two barnes and nobles, a small-ish mall, a smattering of chain restaurants, and many differently owned grocery stores (unlike the coborns’ monopoly in st. cloud). but to get to them, you have to drive all over the dang town to get there. the targets are on the extreme opposite ends of town, and the walmarts are not far behind. the mall is pretty centrally located, which would be nice if there were anything worth visiting in the mall (well, there IS a pretzelmaker…YUM). the olive garden is on a frontage road tucked beside 52, about 1/4 mile from the exit and in a half a block. there are a few decent restaurants along hwy 63 on the south end of town, but that’s about as good as it gets. and on top of that, there is NO TGIFRIDAYS. (serious sadface when i learned that.)
it’s almost like rochester is trying to hide the fact that it does, indeed, have a working class that likes to go to olive garden and target rather than eat at michael’s and buy shoes at the shoestore downtown.
now, the DMC (destination medial center) is a big deal now that it got approved. the number one development area? “Livable City/Retail/Dining”. if that’s truly what they want to accomplish in the next 20 years, they’re going to have move their focus away from downtown for a little bit and realize that yes, there is something more to rochester than the mayo clinic, and people other than mayo employees do actually live and work here. maybe then we can move beyond dumpyville.