Vermillion experiencing downtown business boom

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VERMILLION, S.D. (KSFY) - The City of Vermillion barely has any space for any more new businesses, but it wasn't always that way.

Just three short years ago, about 25 percent of downtown retail storefronts were vacant. Now, they're 99 percent full.

"It's been really impressive," Mayor Jack Powell said.

Powell has lived in Vermillion for more than 50 years. He said people have been commuting to the area for years to work at the University of South Dakota and many people who work there also live in town. But now, Sanford Hospital and new housing developments have made it an even more attractive city for people to move to -- and stay in.

"Those people then, are not only connected to the university and the community but businesses downtown, so it's just been very, very interesting to watch this town," Powell said.

Someone else who's watched downtown change? Bekki Engquist-Schroeder. She's owned The Spa at Winnie Mae's since 2011. She started at a different storefront downtown on West Main, where the Blue Monarch Boutique is now, then moved to her current space at 25 West Main St. in 2013. Last year, she and her husband decided to buy the whole building. They've been able to renovate her salon and spa and have upstairs apartments fully rented out. The building is on the National Historic Register, so they've been having fun learning about the historic preservation aspect of updating the building.

"I really love downtown Vermillion a lot and wanted to own a part of it," Engquist-Schroeder said. "Vermillion is a great place to live, it's a great place to work, it's a great place to start and own a business."

Just down the street, Martin Prendergast and his wife own The Bean. The coffee shop is currently situated inside The Iron Rooster, an antiques shop, but is getting ready to move into the brand new co-working space that will play house to Charlie's, the Vermillion Chamber and Development Company, economic development, a visitor's center and more.

The space will be similar "The Bakery" in Sioux Falls, which ceased business operations in 2017 and the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.

Right now The Bean also has a community space.

"I think people like a community space, a place where they can chat, a place where they can work or study or have meetings," Prendergast said.

He said the shop regularly hosts different meetings for organizations.

While some people are resistant to change, both business owners said the community really seems to be rallying around the new growth and embracing it -- and that's important.

"I think people that haven't been downtown in awhile should come down and check it out," Prendergast said. "There's a lot of good stuff happening."

"There are so many communities where the downtowns are disappearing, the businesses are going away there's not enough to support them," Engquist-Schroeder said. "And as soon as you lose that in a community, other things start to drop off."

Powell said watching his city change is exciting.

"I think it gives pride in the community, to have all these different businesses here they live here, they work among the citizens and it's just a business-friendly atmosphere throughout the community," Powell said.

Vermillion Chamber and Development Company (VCDC) said that right now there are so many projects going on downtown, some of them are actually on hold waiting for others to be completed and even more new developments and businesses have overflowed on to neighboring Cherry St.

VCDC said the new co-working space is expected to be ready for the businesses to move in sometime this summer.