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Vogt's Notes: Pequot Lakes businesses, listen up

"Shop Pequot During Construction." "Experience Pequot." "Downtown Pequot 1 Mile." "Downtown Pequot 1/2 Mile." "Shopping. Parks. Events." "Support Your Local Businesses."...

"Shop Pequot During Construction." "Experience Pequot." "Downtown Pequot 1 Mile." "Downtown Pequot ½ Mile." "Shopping. Parks. Events." "Support Your Local Businesses."

And then: "Stay calm and buy sandals."

Whether that last statement on a sign outside Expressions Shoe Center in Pequot Lakes alludes to Highway 371 construction is anyone's guess. But it made me chuckle Sunday as I drove by it.

The other phrases are on orange signs along Highway 371 as you head north toward Pequot Lakes, right before the temporary signal light at Derksen Road and Highway 371 that leads to the County State Aid Highway 11 detour.

The signs are also along CSAH 11 as you head west into Pequot Lakes from Breezy Point, again as you get to the CSAH 11 detour.

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Have you driven the detour? It's actually quite a scenic route amongst beautiful trees with a 30 mph speed limit. You can see where the four-lane highway will be set east of downtown Pequot Lakes. In fact, motorists are driving on the new northbound lanes of Highway 371, until they curve onto a new frontage road - Knotty Pine Road - that connects to CSAH 11.

The detour is necessary so crews can haul dirt from the south side of CSAH 11 to the north side - safely and uninterrupted by traffic - and to build the overpass. CSAH 11 is expected to be open again by November.

Until then, Pequot Lakes businesses would be smart to band together and let the world know they are open, they have lots to offer, they want your business and you can get to them.

They have a lot of available help to do so.

The Pequot Lakes Chamber is running a summer-long Find the Bobber campaign designed to reflect its mission to strengthen businesses that strengthen our community.

"We need people to know Pequot is still open for business," Jenna Crawford, Pequot Lakes Chamber director, said at a recent Highway 371 meeting for business owners. "It's business as usual in Pequot Lakes."

The summer campaign is open to any business, regardless of whether they're a chamber member. Businesses that donate $25 in money or prizes will hide an 8x10 foam cork bobber. Customers who find the hidden bobber in a business will take a selfie photo and post it online using #findthebobber to become eligible for prize drawings.

"Pequot is a destination. We want to help businesses get through this construction. We hope the summer campaign helps spread the word and gets people in their doors," Crawford said.

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation shared other tips for businesses to bring shoppers to town during highway construction, including working as a group to pool resources and ideas. Business owners must stay informed (hey - subscribe to the Echo Journal!), attend or host informative public meetings, visit the project website, sign up to receive project email updates, stay in touch with the MnDOT project manager, and share what you've learned with other business people.

MnDOT offered other ideas: Hold events to draw attention to your area; design a logo for the construction period; develop a cooperative advertising campaign (I suggest advertising in the Echo Journal and/or Echoland Shopper!); develop shopping incentives; develop hard hat promotions for construction workers; and print placemats and posters with maps to your business.

This weekend marks the official start of our busy tourist season. Business owners will be busy. But I encourage them to take action to make this season one of the most successful ever.

Related Topics: PEQUOT LAKES
Opinion by Nancy Vogt
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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