The closing of a bait and tackle store in Frazee means the opening of opportunities for students at Frazee High School and Minnesota State Community and Technical College - Detroit Lakes. Beth Pridday, director of Business & Entrepreneurial Services on M State’s Detroit Lakes campus, said the bait and tackle store closed last year, leaving West Central Initiative Fund with the store’s inventory and fixtures. But Pridday, WCI staff and Frazee community leaders saw more than unsold fishing tackle: They saw potential.
BES was already involved in a business incubator in downtown Frazee with five current tenants, and there was an open retail space in the front of the main street incubator. They developed a plan to move the store’s inventory and fixtures to the Frazee Business Incubator and allow college and high school students to open and operate the business. "Opportunity met opportunity,” Pridday said. "It’s collaboration on every level.” They’re calling it the Frazee Retail Outlet because their goal, once the spinners and spoons have been snapped up by local fishermen, is to continue operating the business as a deep-discount retail liquidation center. "We’re going to continue the concept because we think it will work in Frazee,” Pridday said. The goal is to open the business in mid-May, although the opening date and the store hours are still tentative.
Once WCI has been repaid for the unsold inventory from the bait store, the college and the community will share the profits. Two students from M State will be hired as paid associates to help run the business, as well as get experiential learning opportunities that will translate in to college credit. Along with the learning opportunity, they will also supervise Frazee High School students who work in the store to gain retail and business experience in merchandising, inventory, sales and marketing and earn college credit as well.
WCI has awarded a $1,000 grant to assist with set-up expenses for the Frazee Retail Outlet, and other sources have been contacted to assist with start-up funding. Pridday said, along with an agreement with the City of Frazee has to initially reduce the rent for the incubator business space. Jonathan Smith, Frazee’s city manager, said he has been a part of helping to connect M State, BES and the Frazee high school. "It’s going really well. So far we haven’t found many negatives about the partnership,” Smith said. "The high school is excited to be involved – it provides students with real-life experience running a business, and it gives them an idea of the business climate on our main street.”
The Frazee Incubator Center owned by the City of Frazee and managed by the Business & Entrepreneurial Services, opened in December 2010 and also houses Toad River Technology, MIB Center, Megan Hagel Creative, Lakes Sew & Vac and Waters of Grace Lutheran Church. Three additional spaces are available in the center, which supports new and growing businesses with retail space, support services and educational opportunities through BES at M State - Detroit Lakes. "This is not only a cool and fun collaboration but a win-win for all involved – and an amazing opportunity to showcase how education, training and entrepreneurs all work together to create jobs, economic development and opportunity in rural MN,” Pridday said.