The Stillwater Gazette, one of Minnesota’s oldest newspapers, is returning to downtown just ahead of celebrating its 150th year in 2020.
In June, the weekly newspaper’s offices will move to a new home on N. 2nd Street, just a short walk from its original home off Myrtle Street that now houses a wine bar.
“The Stillwater Gazette is already such an important part of the community, so it’s a great move for us,” said Alicia Lebens, the paper’s editor.
The move comes just as downtown Stillwater is growing into its new identity now that Main Street isn’t clogged with commuter traffic, a shift that came with the opening downriver of the St. Croix River bridge two years ago.
“The city is really going through a revitalization,” Lebens said. “It really is part of the community identity to have the local paper be a vibrant part of the city center.”
In the early 2000s, the Gazette sold its historic building downtown and moved to office space near Hwy. 36 in the city’s industrial park. A few years ago, the nonprofit Valley Outreach purchased that building, keeping the Gazette as a tenant.
But this year, the organization told the Gazette it would need the newspaper’s office space to expand its programs.
In the past year, the number of clients served by Valley Outreach’s food, clothing and financial assistance programs jumped 20%. Executive Director Tracy Maki said they “were feeling pretty squished.”
In June, Valley Outreach will begin moving its clothing program into the space opened up by the departing Gazette, which will be about four times larger than where the clothes had been displayed. The added room also will allow the organization to offer clothing to any client in need.
While the nonprofit’s food programs are not restricted, the clothing program was previously available only to those living within the Stillwater school district. Even with that restriction, more than 100 families a month receive clothes from Valley Outreach. Last year, it distributed 69,000 clothing items.
“Now we’ll be able to serve more people, offer more variety, and we won’t have to turn people away,” Maki said.
She added that it was “great” having the Gazette next door, but that the move was best for both organizations. “I love that the Gazette is returning to downtown,” Maki said. “It feels very appropriate.”
Lebens said the Gazette was proud that its lease over the past few years went to supporting an organization serving the community. “As their neighbor, we are excited to celebrate this milestone for them,” she said.
The Gazette’s new location, at 225 2nd St. N., is near City Hall, the library and Lowell Park. “It’s a good location for us to do our job, but it’s also got that great historical quality,” Lebens said. “We’re going to be on the same street the Gazette was originally.”
As the Gazette approaches its sesquicentennial, Lebens said she wants the anniversary to focus less on the paper’s longevity and more on the lives and events its pages have recorded.
“It’s my hope always that the paper has a place in the community,” she said. “I think Stillwater values its historic institutions, and I hope [the Gazette] continues to be seen as one of those.”