Hagen: It's time to judge Mitchell's Main Street by its cover

Drive down Mitchell’s Main Street. Or at least think about your perspective of what Mitchell’s downtown looks like. Now, compare that to someplace you’ve shopped that really stood out

Main Street Mitchell.jpg
Mitchell Main Street.
Mitchell Republic file photo

A recent quest to buy a rustic, old windmill for a home remodel project brought me to Mitchell’s Main Street.

I’ve lived here for 15 years. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve driven downtown having never stepped foot inside some of the businesses. But it was encouragement from a coworker who was briefly visiting town that sent me through the doors of a particular store, seeking a new wall decoration, for the first time.

This coworker spent part of her day wandering down Main Street and checking out interesting locations. “Have you been inside there?” she asked. I was a bit embarrassed when I said no.

Now, it's not necessarily fair to marginalize and identify where my wife and I spent much of a date night browsing around.

But this store, I thought afterward, encapsulates much of Mitchell’s Main Street. The face of the building, aka the facade, really doesn’t do much to lure me in. Why, after 15 years of living in Mitchell, have I never wanted to check this place out? Despite having tons of cool shopping inside, the outside was, well, pretty bland and uninviting.


The issue of addressing improvements on Mitchell’s Main Street have been among city leader discussions recently. Do we need more curb bump-outs or to expand with more greenspace? Should we add parking spots by adjusting from parallel to diagonal spaces?

It’s wonderful that the city is trying to do what it can to make the shopping experience in the downtown area more friendly. But infrastructure only goes so far.

Mitchell Republic Editor Luke Hagen
(Adam Thury photo)

Drive down Mitchell’s Main Street. Or at least think about your perspective of what Mitchell’s downtown looks like.

Now, compare that to someplace you’ve shopped that really stood out. In South Dakota, for me, Brookings has a nice downtown. Just a few hours south, Omaha also stands out as impressive.

The differences? The businesses in those communities have collectively invested in the facades to ensure the entire downtown looks up to snuff.

Mitchell has a checkerboard downtown. Some organizations, building owners and businesses have put significant effort into sprucing up and making their storefront look welcoming. Others seemingly haven’t even considered it.

Now, this clearly isn’t a new problem for Mitchell. And for years, Mitchell Main Street and Beyond has been an advocate to help businesses succeed.

The nonprofit has brought some wonderful events to our city like First Fridays, Wingapalooza, Holiday Parade of Lights, and Oktoberfest. Those community gatherings are the ticket to our downtown for residents and tourists to see what we have to offer in the heart of our community.


MMS&B started the idea of a BID tax in 2018 to help raise money and distribute funds for cosmetic improvements. Funds cannot be used for any interior projects.

Another resource available is the 0 percent loan through MMS&B. All it takes is filling out an application to receive up to $20,000 for building repairs or improvements. The first year there is no payment and the rest of the funds are paid back, with no interest, in the next five years.

But again, like the city with infrastructure improvements, MMS&B can only do so much.

It’s great the city is discussing ways to improve downtown like adjusting parking for visitors. We need well-run, great groups like MMS&B downtown to help provide guidance and leadership for everyone.

Ultimately, it boils down to the self-reflection of business or building owners recognizing we have a Corn Palace that brings thousands of people to Mitchell annually. When those people arrive, the first glance of a building should undoubtedly be welcoming. In this case, we are indeed and should be judging books — well, businesses — by their cover.

Until we get more buy-in from everyone downtown, Mitchell will be waiting for a great Main Street. Meanwhile, if you know anyone, I’m still searching for a rustic windmill.

Opinion by Luke Hagen
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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