Hustad started feeling more positive about his downtown location about a decade ago. The city replaced an ugly parking lot with a parking ramp that created a nice outside mall area down the street. A coffee shop also opened across the street, which brought more customers to his Once Read store. The location of that coffee shop has changed, but it still has a big window facing his store.
"That really was help for me," he said. "That was a natural match."
Hustad and Andersen said they are encouraged by a $1.3 million city improvement project that will make their block and the 500 and 400 blocks of South Front Street more pedestrian friendly. They hope that, along with a $16 million Tailwind Group project being built on the 500 block between Front Street and Riverfront Drive, will bring even more business downtown. The Tailwind project will include a seven-story office tower, a four-story mixed-use building and public parking ramp.
Hustad said he hopes the improvements will bring a mixture of new retail, office and dining options downtown. He also wants to see more young people living and learning to do business downtown.
"I want to keep the old downtown feel," he said. "That's what makes us unique. Shopping downtown is a different experience than shopping in these modern malls and it's part of our heritage. Even little kids know that. When they come in here, they know it's different. They don't know what it's like to park outside and go in. They don't know if they're going into a house or what.
"Downtowns are on their way back all over the place and it's nice to see people focus on our downtown. We want to be part of it and we're tickled to be back in the family."