February 14, 2019 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  Investing in Herman’s bar/cafe is an investment in the community
  BY NICK RIPPERGER, DAVE HORNING, Herman Development Corporation

“This is our town. If we do nothing, nothing is what we get.”

Herman Development Corporation member Aileen Sperr spoke those words at the beginning of a community town hall meeting five years ago, urging people to look at themselves and their relationship to the Herman-Norcross community. What do you love about living here? What would you do to keep those things you like, make them better, or even add a few more?

The answer is the same as it was five years ago: Doing nothing produces nothing. If that’s what you like, that’s what you’ll get.

It’s been over a year since the Herman Bar and Grill closed, and while there have been rumors and ideas and varying degrees of effort to get it going again, it still remains closed. One of the nicest, soundest, and most functional buildings in Herman is sitting unused, empty except for some odds and ends still there as evidence that it was once a bar and cafe. What is so painfully obvious is that it could become that business once again pretty much just by opening the doors.

As anyone who has lived here for any length of time (for many, that’s their whole life) knows, a number of business over the years have closed, unable to keep going as their patronage declined as the population declined. In some cases, the goods or service they provided simply were not in demand anymore or could be bought cheaper in some bigger town the road. The same story has been repeated in small rural towns throughout the state.

What was unique about the Herman Bar and Grill, and before that when it was the Herman Municipal Liquor Store, was that it was a place to go specifically to relax, maybe have a couple beers, or lunch, or supper. You went there to get together with friends to hash over the week’s events, to talk about sports, politics, farming, or your kids and grandkids.

Sometimes you’d run into somebody you hadn’t seen for awhile and catch up with each other’s lives. If someone who had been away for awhile came back for a visit, he or she would know where to go to run into old friends.

The community’s gathering place has been empty for more than a year, and people miss it.

There is a group in Herman who has gone beyond the rumors and ideas and varying degrees of effort of bringing the bar back and are actually doing something about it.

In late December, Dana Blume, Greg Blume, Tom Blume, and Dave Horning, all with life-long, deep ties to the community, organized a meeting at the community center to propose a plan. Around 40 people attended.

Their plan was to set up a limited liability company (LLC) to sell shares to members at $1,500 each, with two shares being required to become a member of the LLC. Their goal was to sell 180 shares, raising $270,000, which is the asking price from owners Trish and Pat Haney.

The money raised would be used solely to purchase the building. Once purchased, the LLC would seek renters to run the bar and cafe for their own profit, at their own risk.

Most of those who attended the meeting expressed a willingness to become members, and applauded the group for taking concrete action rather than just talking about possibilities.

Since then, Herman Community Properties, LLC has had what could almost be called bittersweet success. They have raised about $200,000, three-fourths of their goal. There is a rumor going around that the building has already been bought. It has not.

The money raised so far is not enough to buy the building outright, not yet, but enough to know there is strong sentiment in the community to get the bar/cafe open again and that there are people willing put their money where their mouth is. To use a sports analogy, the LLC wants to score a touchdown, but right now is sitting on the 25-yard line debating whether to try a field goal or not.

Far too often, far too few people do most of the work of a community while the rest sit by as spectators even though they benefit from the work of load carriers. Sometimes the spectators might even cheer their friends on, but, to use another sports analogy, it’s one thing to be a cheerleader and another to actually play in the game.

As members of the Herman Development Corporation, we strongly support the LLC’s efforts. Ever since it was formed in the early 1970s to build the airport, the HDC has gone through a rotation of members whose primary goal has been to promote the economy and quality of life in our community. There have been times in the past that, rightly or wrongly, we have felt that we were the only organized civic group doing so. To see another group, entirely independent from us, acting on their own with the same goals is encouraging.

What makes it even more encouraging to us “old farts” (most of us on the HDC board are over 60), is that it’s primarily people from the next generation younger than us who are trying so hard to bring more life into this community. It can be done, as Amy and Jason Lennes have shown by resurrecting the gas station/convenience store, AJ’s.

The fact is, we need more businesses in our community, whether they be bars or manufacturing plants. We have been given a chance to bring back not only a business, but a social gathering place that whether they admit it out loud or not, most people miss. Without it, it’s one less thing we have to offer ourselves, not to mention the other folks passing through or old friends coming back for a visit.

Some people have said the bar/cafe has already failed once, so why throw good money after bad? One difference in this case is with so many people having a personal investment in its success, the bar’s chances for success increase with every investor.

Herman has gained a reputation in neighboring communities as a “can-do” town. They say that raising over $1 million for the community center was something that could never be done in their own community, just as organizing to buy a bar/cafe is something that likely wouldn’t even be considered in their town.

The LLC has given itself a deadline of February 15 to meet their goal. If they don’t, they will then have decide what their next step is. If you want to join in, contact one of the LLC members or go to the Kensington Bank where the account is set up.

Another status update meeting has been set tentatively for Wednesday, February 20 at the community center, likely around 7:30 or so. Watch for flyers around town to confirm that.

It’s been a long winter so far. The reopening of the Herman Bar and Grill would provide an early breath of spring air for our community.



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