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Author to talk about his Mississippi swim

A man who swam the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge, La., will speak next week at a Rochester fund-raiser.

Nick Irons, swimmer and author of "Swim Lessons," will speak Nov. 4 during a 6:30 p.m. dinner at the Kahler Grand Hotel. The cost is $50 per plate, but $30 of that is tax deductible. Money raised goes to the Samaritan Bethany Foundation.

Irons swam the Mississippi River to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis, a disease that afflicts his father. During his speech, entitled "The Trip of a Lifetime," Irons will share memories from his journey and the lessons he learned en route.

For more information or to purchase a ticket, call 424-4034.

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Supersized Wal-Mart has town concerned

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. -- Downtown business merchants have managed to co-exist with a Wal-Mart for several years. But they're not sure they can handle the supersized version.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has a purchase agreement for 28 acres on the fringe of this city of 10,000. The City Council this week voted to annex the land and set a Nov. 15 public hearing on zoning the property.

A Wal-Mart Supercenter could open by 2007, replacing the existing Wal-Mart. City administrator Rich Carlson said a store of almost 204,000 square feet would include groceries, a pharmacy, liquor store, gas station and auto center in addition to the standard inventory.

Darlene Pick said she and her sister, Debbie Popp, welcome an upsized Wal-Mart.

"Every other Friday, we're at Wal-Mart unless we get snowed in," Pick said. "I can't wait. 2007 is a long time."

Competing merchants weren't so happy.

"When a Wal-Mart of this proportionate size comes into a small town, existing businesses, including ours, are going to be affected," said Bob Thueringer, chief operating officer of Coborn's. The St. Cloud company operates a grocery in Little Falls that, after expansions in 2001 and 2003, has 226 employees.

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Chamber of Commerce President Debora Boelz said the threat to existing businesses is offset by construction jobs and an estimated 200 retail jobs.

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