June 4, 2018
Elected officials recapped the 2018 legislative session at last week's Public Affairs Breakfast with the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
A Salute To Norby's: 112 Years In The Making
To use words like "the end of an era" to describe the closing of Norby's Department Store in Detroit Lakes doesn't even seem close to strong enough.

Norby's has been serving the community for 112 years. And that service goes well beyond over a century of serving customers in their store.

That's 112 years of employing hundreds and hundreds of people--some who were looking to stay active in retirement, some looking for a first work experience, and some making a career in retail.

That's years of local advertising and marketing.

That's years of presence in Detroit Lakes (and a few other communities!), making downtown a true shopping destination.

That's years of support for countless local organizations and groups.

And that's years of dedication to being a leading, innovative retailer in Minnesota.

The Board and staff of the Minnesota Retailers Association salute the Norby's family as they wind up operations in the coming week and look to the future. If there was a profile of an ideal family-owned retail business in Minnesota that has given more than it has gotten over the years, that would be Norby's.

MnRA has been blessed with Michael Norby's steadfast leadership on the Board of Directors since 1993, including him chairing the Board of Directors in 2003. Michael will be truly missed, but we can't help but be excited to see what is next for him and his entire entrepreneurial family.

It's likely a few graduate students will analyze the factors that influenced the closing of this community icon, but today we salute the entire Norby's team--past and present--for their 112 years of contributions to not only the Detroit Lakes area, but the entire state of Minnesota and beyond.

Norby's, thank you for such a great retail run! Your contributions to Minnesota are cherished, and your legacy is certain to live on.
A Must Read: Saying Goodbye; Historic Norby's Department Store Closing Leaves Family, Community Heartbroken
From DL-Online, Paula Quam, June 4, 2018

Nobody alive today in Detroit Lakes can remember a time when Norby's Department Store wasn't right there on Washington Avenue, an old, dependable anchor to the ever-changing downtown.

Its large display windows, like a flip book illustration of its long story, have changed from season to season, year to year, decade to decade over a century. The fall and winter fashions featuring long dresses and long, tailored suit jackets that were all the rage in 1909 when Norby's opened gave way to the floral, fitted dresses with the bottom flares that ladies of the 30's loved, to the high-waisted polka dotted fashions of the 50's, to the more flamboyant polyester of the 70's....and on to today, where the story ends, in May of 2018.

The only thing in those windows now is a display of white paper and the sad words that after 112 years, the family-owned and operated business is closing its doors forever.

"It's like a death in the family," said Jean Anderson, who serves as a vice president to the company and is one-third of the sibling group that grew up with the store. For Anderson, her sister and co-vice president Mary Beth Gilsdorf, and her brother and president of Norby's, Michael Norby, the store is more than just a store. It's in their bones. It's part of who they are.

"It's sad, this has been our life, our whole lives," said Norby, who says the decision was not an easy one or a quick one. In fact, it's been a slow churning realization that's been in the back of their minds for roughly five years, which is around the time when the retail business started to really change.

Every year the Norby descendants would analyze their business, every year they'd make changes to try to turn things around, every year it looked more and more bleak.

"My husband, Hans, said it best," said Gilsdorf. "We've been in the trenches for a while, and now it's filling in with mud. You don't stay in the trenches — you've gotta get out."

And these three wanted to say goodbye to their great-grandfather's creation their way, on their terms.

"We're not going to have a banker come and say 'Guess what, now is the time'....that's not what we want," said Norby. "We want to do it our way and stay true to our core values."

The store closed right after its annual Memorial Day sale and will open back up on Thursday, June 7 for a sale that will end when the last item is purchased and out the door. Until then, the three siblings, their families and the employees that have been there so long they're like family, are busy putting every single item still in stock out on display for the last time. It's a decision that has saddened an entire community, as hundreds of messages have been flooding into the family with an overwhelming, collective message of "I can't believe it, this is so sad!"

Can't beat 'em, can't join 'em

It isn't one thing that led up to this day; it's many things. It's the way some people would come in and try on clothes just to get their proper size and then turn around and buy them online, where they were a little cheaper. It's the way national, brand name vendors began actually competing with their own distributors by doing their own online sales and prohibiting "third party vendors," like Norby's, from doing so.

It's the way Amazon has found a way to capture consumers at every turn, on every level in a way that no little family-owned business could ever try to compete with. It's all this and more, but as heartbroken as Norby, Anderson and Gilsdorf are, they refuse to be bitter.

"We don't want to go out throwing stones in that oh, it's the customers, oh it's the vendors — that's not right," said Norby, "You know what? It's been a great run, it really has."

The 'run'

The Norbys' run actually began before the turn of the century, when L.J. (Lewis) Norby paired up with A.M. Blanding, who had already started a department store with goods for the settling pioneers. When Blanding died in 1899, Norby broke off from Blanding's and its new president, E.G. Holmes (a rich, powerful relative of the Blandings), to start his own department store across the street along with his brother, G.L. (Gus) Norby, in 1906. Together, they continued to build on their family store, creating a successful business known for its quality products and good customer service. For many years, that was enough, as it was passed along from generation to generation, from L.J. Norby to his son, J.E. (James) Norby and then to L.J. Norby (or Jim, as he was known), father to the three siblings that now own it. Jim had an emotional connection to the business. He grew up in it, and he raised Jean, Michael and Mary Beth in it as well.

"I remember crawling behind the dressing rooms where they had this big bridal dressing room with all these dresses," said Anderson, smiling. Memories are everywhere for the three of them, including coffee time with their mother, Mary Lou, who would, like clockwork, always make her way to the store at 3 p.m. with the kids for coffee with their father and whatever employees happened to be on break at that time.

Some of those employees continued working for the family even after their father's passing in 1992, and their mother's in 1996. They were good times, a simpler time when the three siblings couldn't imagine a day when Norby's wouldn't be there.

"I remember when I started working in the men's department, and in the first week I had an elderly gentleman say 'I want you to show me your BVD's,'" said Norby, who was 16 years old and clueless of what that was. "...and he raised his voice and said 'BVD's, man! Don't you know what BVD's are?' And one of the older, more experienced employees comes over and says, 'He needs underwear.' That was a brand of underwear, I had no idea!"

Meanwhile, up in the women's department, both Jean and Mary Beth remember their time as teens when they were among the six to eight employees it took just to tend to the women customers and the long lines at the dressing rooms. Business was good; times were much different. At one point in the 70's and 80's, Norby's even had four different specialty stores, branching off into St. Cloud and Fergus Falls, but those eventually closed in the 1990's.

Back to their roots

Although all three siblings took time away from the store to explore their own strengths and careers, they all came back to run the store. Anderson, an artist and experienced retail manager; Norby, with his education and experience in finance; and Gilsdorf, an engineer with experience in technology, all split their duties and, as Anderson puts it, "stayed out of each other's kitchens."

They all say that aside from the expected "tiff" now and then, they got along great together as business owners.

"My favorite part was getting to be the boss of them (his sisters)," laughed Norby, as Anderson playfully began bowing to him while Gilsdorf pointed out her surprise when her dad expressed his old-school desire to have Michael run the business one day, simply because he was a boy and had the last name.

"I was like...him? He can hardly dress himself!" she laughed, as Norby laughed along. "That's true," he added.

Laughter and their families appear to be the lifelines pulling them through this admittedly emotional time. Not a one of them has any idea what they'll do for a living once the doors close for the last time. They say there's simply too much to do and too much to deal with for them to put much thought into it. Once everything is gone, the building will be put up for sale, and the Norby family is hoping somebody buys it who will turn it into retail again.

"This town needs retail," said Norby, " and retail needs other retail." But with that, a sentiment from Gilsdorf serves as a heartfelt warning to shoppers who want to keep that retail in town.

"Just remember that every time you shop online, you're not shopping here, and that makes a difference," she said, sadness and frustration evident in her and her siblings' faces as they sat together in the old building they all know like the backs of their hands, "even in the dark," they said.

But they don't believe their father would have been too badly disappointed; not in them, anyway. In fact, they all believe that despite their father's love for the store, he'd have hated all the changes in consumer and vendor practices even more than they did. "I think maybe he'd be thinking, 'Wow you guys, great job, you stuck it out longer than I would have," said Norby, who says they're all trying to think positively going forward.

"And you know what?" he said. "Something good is going to happen; where one door closes, another one opens."
Deadline Extended: Minnesota Retail Champions Nominations Open Through June 15
When innovative retailers and their partners gather, learn and celebrate at Retail Rally in October, we'll roll out the red carpet to recognize 10 Minnesota organizations and individuals for being champions of the industry.

Show your support for Minnesota's retail industry by nominating an employee, employer, business or vendor partner for one or more of these prestigious awards:

  •  Lifetime Achievement/Outstanding Achievement
  •  Vendor Partner of the Year
  •  Retailer of the Year
  •  Retail Community of the Year
  •  Retail Employee of the Year
  •  Social Responsibility
  •  Best Place To Work
  •  Retail Innovation
  •  Customer Experience
  •  Advocate of the Year

Nominations are open through June 15 and can be done at www.retailrally.com/nominate.

Take a moment to nominate a Minnesota Retail Champion today!
Father’s Day Spending to Reach Near-Record $15.3 Billion
From the National Retail Federation, May 30, 2018

Father’s Day spending is expected to total a near-record $15.3 billion this year, according to a study released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. A total of 77 percent of Americans will celebrate Father’s Day and spend an average of $133 per person.

“We are pleased to see consumer confidence continue to rise, leading to another near-record holiday spend on Father’s Day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Leading into the second half of the year, Americans are looking forward to treating their dads and retailers will be prepared to offer a variety of gift options that will create new memories on this special day.”

The expected spending would be second only to last year’s $15.5 billion, the highest in the 15-year history of the survey at an average $135 per person. Individuals between 25 and 34 years old will be the biggest spenders this year at an average $188 per person.

According to the survey, consumers plan to spend $2.2 billion on clothing (purchased by 43 percent of shoppers), $2.1 billion on gift cards (42 percent) and $1.8 billion on consumer electronics (20 percent). In addition, $878 million will be spent on home improvement supplies (16 percent), $862 million on personal care products (19 percent), $844 million on greeting cards (63 percent) and $830 million on tools or appliances (16 percent). Another $798 million will be spent on sporting goods or leisure items (16 percent), $686 million on automotive accessories (16 percent) and $628 million on books or music (22 percent).

The survey found 47 percent of consumers plan to give a “special outing” gift, such as a concert, sporting event or dinner. This category represents the largest share of spending at $3.2 billion.
Governor Hopeful Erin Murphy Picks House Colleague Erin Maye Quade As Her Running Mate
From the Pioneer Press, Christopher Magan, June 3, 2018

Governor hopeful Erin Murphy picks House colleague Erin Maye Quade as her running mate

The newly endorsed Democratic candidate for governor, state Rep. Erin Murphy, picked a colleague in the Minnesota House to be her running mate.

Murphy, a St. Paul resident, introduced Rep. Erin Maye Quade of Apple Valley on Sunday, the final day of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Murphy said she wanted a running mate who shared her progressive values and enthusiasm but also had different life experiences.

“I wanted to find someone who shared my same optimism and ambition for the state of Minnesota,” Murphy said. “Someone who shares my values, our values and my work ethic.”

Maye Quade won a seat in the House in 2016. She’s also worked as a community organizer and on political campaigns.

“Erin Murphy knows that Minnesotans don’t have time for timid and tippy-toe politics,” Maye Quade said. “I’m joining her because I’m a leader and an organizer. Leaders aren’t timid, we’re bold. Organizers don’t tippy-toe, we door knock, we march, we rally and we vote.”
Republicans Endorse Jeff Johnson For Governor, With Tim Pawlenty’s Challenge Looming
From the Pioneer Press, Dave Orrick, June 2, 2018

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won the official Republican party endorsement for governor Saturday. But his battle for the full support of Republicans is just beginning.

That’s because Johnson now squares off against former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in an August primary.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won the official Republican party endorsement for governor Saturday.

But his battle for the full support of Republicans is just beginning. That’s because Johnson now squares off against former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in an August primary.