Last year, Charlie’s opened its doors on 2 E. Main St., but is now located at 6 W. Main St.
Tena Haraldson, director of marketing, communications & university relations, said the move was part of preparations for a project that USD and the Vermillion Chamber and Development Company (VCDC) are working on together.
“The building, when we first moved into it, was owned by different people and the VCDC bought the building thinking they would turn it into their offices with our store in the downstairs,” Haraldson said. “We had to get out of there after they bought it because they want to remodel it. So we moved across the street.”
Haraldson said they’ll eventually have to move out of the new location, though, because the Iron Rooster wants to expand its coffee shop, The Bean, into that area.
“We will be there until January,” she said. “We just wanted to be in one place while all of the students came back and through the holidays.”
Haraldson said there won’t be a physical Charlie’s store between January and April, but students will be able to buy merchandise online from the store’s new website.
Nate Welch, the VCDC executive director, said the upstairs portion of the building on 2 E. Main St. will house the VCDC main offices. The downstairs portion of the building will be split between Charlie’s and a space where the community and students can come together to work on projects.
“This community commerce center, is kind of what we’re calling it, will allow us to be able to do the Chamber of Commerce activities, it will allow us to have a visitor center and then it will allow us to have a collaborative co-working space,” Welch said. “That will all be in that same place, and on the other side of it will be the retail store.”
The space is scheduled to open by the end of April next year. Welch said the project’s budget is slightly more than $1.5 million.
While the VCDC staff have a vision for what the space looks like, Welch said they’re open to feedback from the community.
“When it comes down to it, the ultimate priority, goal and objective of the VCDC is to ultimately improve the quality of life in Vermillion,” Welch said. “We do that by enhancing entrepreneurial and economic development opportunities through collaboration and community engagement. Really what makes us great is the collaboration that we have within our community.”
Welch said investing in entrepreneurial efforts helps ensure that businesses grown here won’t leave.
“We’re planting some seeds so that they grow and build those roots,” he said.
Some activities planned for the new space include community coffee hours and Tuesday Ted Talks. Additionally, startup businesses and students will be able to use the area as workspace and a place to collaborate, Welch said.
“This kind of space allows us to be able bring the university intellect and bring it into the community,” Welch said. “You integrate that, and that’s what really can drive an economy and a really strong, creative community that has the riches that a university can bring to a community and yet that genuineness that a small town can bring.”
Hannah Person, a junior marketing and Spanish double major, said she thinks the community and university need to come together instead of operating as two separate entities.
Person is the business ventures chair of Delta Sigma Pi, USD’s professional business fraternity. Delta Sigma Pi works with Charlie’s by running its trailer at tailgates.
“I think that we could stand to integrate more into the community, we’re starting to do that,” Person said. “I’ve noticed that the university is trying to help out more with the community and vice versa. I think that it’s been going really well and we just need to do more of that.”
Welch said there’s a “magnificent energy” going on downtown right now.
“Over three years ago, downtown was probably about 74 percent occupied, which meant the vacancy was 26 percent. Now we are just at about 98 and 99 percent occupancy,” Welch said. “Vermillion has, for the last three years, had a record-breaking building permits and total investments for construction every year for the last three years.”
Welch said Vermillion is the fourth fastest-growing metro and micropolitan city in South Dakota, and the second-fastest growing on the eastern side of South Dakota — second only to Sioux Falls.
“When you look around the United States, communities that have universities that around the same size of them, by theory, they all should really succeed because you have the engine and economics that a university can provide and you have that genuineness that a community can provide, but more times than not, they clash,” Welch said. “Vermillion is no stranger to that, but what’s exciting is there have been so many great leadership steps between the university and the community.”
Person said she likes the downtown’s atmosphere.
“I think they’ve done a great job of making it both family friendly but also making it good for college students,” she said.
One thing Haraldson said she didn’t want is Vermillion to become a community where the town complains about the college and the college complains about the town.
“We want to think of each other and do everything together,” she said.