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A driving economic force, Highway 10 is hot spot for businesses

Photo by: Brian Basham Webber Family Ford is moving its location from Highway 59 south to Highway 10 west of Detroit Lakes with a belief that a more visible location can increase their traffic as well.

Highway 10 has changed the face of Detroit Lakes, and in turn economic development along the city's main highway has seen many changes itself in recent years.

Big box retailers like Walmart and Menards have appeared along the west end of Detroit Lakes, spurring a rash of restaurants, stores, strip malls and other development.

The Webber Family Detroit Lakes Ford Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership is one of those "other developments," moving its dealership from the current Highway 59 location to the more visible Highway 10 west location.

The car dealer is currently building a new 25,000 square foot facility next to Menards, and hopes to open the new facility in late summer of 2012, according to co-owner Brock Webber.

"That's just where things seem to be going," Webber said of the Highway 10 west location. "The town seems to be growing in that direction. They're going to do a frontage road that's going to have a lot easier access out to that area. So that kind of drew us there."

Webber said the options were fairly limited as to where they could build a whole new dealership and facility.

"If we wanted to go east of town, well, then you're looking at a couple of miles east of town before you could find something to get your hands on," he said. "West of town, if you wanted to go anywhere else other than that, we'd be outside of the airport. We didn't have a lot of options where we could go."

Traffic studies showed about 8,000 vehicles a day are passing by the current Highway 59 location, with about 18,000 vehicles passing by the Highway 10 location.

"There's quite a bit more of traffic count there. Granted, we're off the beaten path a little bit, but it's still very very visible from the Walmart parking lot, the little strip mall parking lot over there and Menards is obviously right behind us.

"If you stand out in that parking lot, there are a lot of cars that drive back and forth. And it's 30 mile-an-hour traffic not 60 mile-an-hour traffic. I think it's going to be a really good thing."

The new dealership will have an upstairs with offices and storage space and a full drive-in service garage. Also being added to the dealership's services will be a five-bay quick service facility for oil changes, tires and alignments.

"We're going to be adding about eight hoists to the business from what we have now," Webber said.

The dealership will also move its DL Dock and Lift business to the new location with a separate 4,000-square-foot building.

"Everything kind of lined up for us to do it. The timing got good, and interest rates are great and it was kind of a really good time to pull the pin," Webber said.

On the east side of Highway 10 in Detroit Lakes, now stands The Lodge on Lake Detroit, which opened Memorial Day weekend in 2006.

Owners Chris Holland-Mehlhaff and Scott Mehlhaff have owned the land the resort hotel sits on for about 15 years, running the Castaway Inn and Resort there previously for about eight years.

"We purchased that with the hopes of the site eventually being a site for an upscale resort hotel," Holland-Mehlhaff said. "So that was our dream. It's been a journey. It's taken many years to put together, and we just had a dream and went for it."

The Best Western Holland House, which also resides on Highway 10 a mile or so west of The Lodge, has been in Holland-Mehlhaff's family for four generations. Her grandparents, Emil and Hilda Holland, built the hotel in 1953.

"It's been a long-time journey," she said. "Highway 10 has been a big part of Detroit Lakes for industry, business and welcoming visitors to the area."

The Lodge on Lake Detroit features 54 rooms, all with a lakeside view, most with a private balcony.

But it's not just a hotel. The Spa Within is a full service spa that is located on the lake level in The Lodge, offering a menu of spa treatments like nail services, facials, body wraps and massages. The spa's services are not only for guests, but the public as well.

"We have certified fully licensed team members that are very talented that offer wellness to our guests and the community," Holland-Mehlhaff said.

The Lodge has also been recognized by the state of Minnesota Tourism Office for its green efforts like rain gardens on site and its restore the shore program.

"My husband, Scott, grew up in a farming environment, so he's a great steward to the land. He nurtured the rain gardens we have on site and the restore the shore projects," she said. "We've continued to add different elements like that outside the hotel and inside."

Holland-Mehlhaff has a long family history of business in Detroit Lakes, which she takes a lot of pride in. Her great-grandfather, Asa Hoffman, was believed to be the first veterinarian in Becker County, she said.

"We just love being a business in Detroit Lakes. I didn't know I'd be back in Detroit Lakes after college. And now to have moved back to town and be involved in the family business now and raise a family here, it's a great choice. I love being here," she said.