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Restaurateurs and Craft Brewers: Cannon Falls Wants You

The Cannon Valley Trail brings close to 100,000 people through Cannon Falls each year. Nearby Lake Byllesby is another attraction, and of course the Cannon River is ideal for canoeing, tubing or kayaking.

Then there’s Cannon Falls itself. Emerging as a tourist destination, the community along Highway 52, midway between the Twin Cities and Rochester, wants to bolster its roster of businesses by targeting additional restaurants and perhaps even a craft brewery.

The need for that focused recruiting, explains John Peterson, is because while thousands of people visit the area for its recreational offerings, it’s hard to keep them—and their tourism dollars—in Cannon Falls without more complimentary attractions.

“We’re leaving some of the opportunity on the table by not having those businesses,” says Peterson, who owns and runs a local turkey farm and its corresponding Ferndale Market specialty food store. “More dining and a craft brewery would help round out what we already have here.”

Peterson is among several local business owners and residents behind the Grow Cannon Falls initiative. With support from the city’s Economic Development Authority, which has economic incentives to offer, the group is working to promote several restored downtown buildings as ideal restaurant or brewery locations.

“The EDA recognizes that the food, beverage and hospitality sector of the economy presents a growth opportunity for Cannon Falls and they are prepared, willing and able to assist development and/or expansion of these type businesses,” writes Economic Development Directory Dave Maroney in an email.

“Honestly,” Maroney continues, “proposals that are consistent with and complementary to the development goals established for the downtown area as now being promoted by Grow Cannon Falls will be given prompt and serious consideration by the EDA. Good ideas proposed by committed individual(s) that offer reasonable equity and a need for local incentive financing are typically approved by the EDA.”

One potential site is across the street from Cannon River Winery. Also part of the Grown Cannon Falls effort, owner Maureen Maloney says her store is among the larger draws downtown and she’d welcome a brewery to complement her business. Rather than think of it as competition, Maloney says there’s a natural synergy between a winery and a craft brewery.

The arrival of a new restaurant would also benefit her business, says Maloney, particularly if it offers catering.

With the opening of her new winery event center, Maloney’s discovered “a huge need and market for catering” to serve the many weddings and other gatherings she hosts.

“We’ve got so many opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of,” she says.

To showcase available properties and offer interested entrepreneurs the chance to learn more about those opportunities, Grown Cannon Falls and Cannon River Winery are hosting an informational event Thursday, April 16, at 3 p.m. at the winery (421 West Mill Street, Cannon Falls). Visit www.growcannonfalls.com for details.

“The community is eager to support this,” says Peterson. “And we’re not a community that’s starting at zero. We’ve got a great foundation.”

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