Jordan is a place where Little League scoreboard keepers still change the numbers manually after each run and the city pays a small fee to boost its promotional Facebook posts.
A hot dog and pop cost $1 each at Mini-Met ballpark, a bargain compared to the $6 dogs at gleaming new U.S. Bank Stadium about 40 miles away in downtown Minneapolis. “Old fashioned! Let’s go,” Mayor Tanya Velishek said.
In a trendy wedding barn, couples from all ZIP codes marry at popular Minnesota Harvest Apple Orchard. Tourists gawk at the bacon-flavored root beer at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, on Hwy. 169 southwest of town.
Along that road, Jordan will soon erect a billboard with the slogan, “Live. Shop. Dine.”
A town whose residents boast about its “old-country feel,” Jordan is at a crossroads. It treasures its past, as shown by interest in preserving the historic downtown, while trying to land such 21st-century attractions as an outlet mall and to draw millennials and retirees looking to “come home to their roots,” said 45-year resident and school board member Deb Pauly.
The city of 6,000 is still recovering from two body blows: A 2014 landslide that left a historic brewery wrapped in police tape for two years, and the loss last winter of Mayor Mike Shaw, who died after a long battle with cancer.
The wreck of the brewery, a city landmark, “kind of psychologically impacted” residents, said Ron Holbeck, Scott County’s deputy emergency management director. The County Board earlier this month approved a new hazard mitigation plan that includes a $500,000 grant application to fix the old brewery’s hillside and improve the drainage.
But Roets Brewery will open this summer in a former library and bank building. And Velishek, who had served eight years on City Council, was appointed mayor. She plans to run for the office this fall.
“You give me a job, you tell me I can’t do something,” Velishek said, while walking over the train tracks that run through town. “I’m gonna work my darndest ’til I get it done.”
Jordan lost to Shakopee in their contest for the seat of Scott County in 1929, according to historical society records. Both cities’ populations have nearly doubled since 2000, although Shakopee has six times the number of residents as Jordan.
The candy store claims “The World’s Largest Soda Selection,” but Jordan is not a diverse or splashy town. Its basic demographic makeup — still largely white and of German ancestry — is shifting at a rate much slower than Shakopee, which has growing Somali, Latino and Russian populations. People of color are about 5 percent of Jordan’s population, according to the latest U.S. census data.
Velishek, who just completed a master’s degree in nursing and works in St. Paul, cites the food shelf she shepherded as a major town project.
It was a collaborative effort, she said, among what passes for different community groups: Baptists, Lutherans and Catholics.
Since 2013, the city and its economic development authority have pledged $50,000 annually to revitalize downtown Jordan, currently dotted with antique shops, florists and a barber shop.
The City Council recently moved from a basement into a different building, where city staffers have transferred old artifacts such as a piano, stroller and trunk for a future historical exhibit. Both Jordan and Shakopee offer walking tours hosted by the Scott County Historical Society.
On the north side of the train tracks sits Pekarna Meat Market, owned by the same family since 1893. About a block away is the Feed Mill, a family-run restaurant that recently opened and was inspired by Wampach’s, a beloved diner in Shakopee.
Have any Pekarna descendants thought of trying vegetarianism?
“They’d be disowned,” co-owner Ken Pekarna joked.
Ken, one of three brothers who run the market, said the business has been blessed by generations of loyal customers. Employees daily chop wood, smoke the meat — sausage, steaks, ribs — and feed carnivores at fundraisers, school events and sports games.
For Jordan’s youngest residents, pork samples wait behind the counter.
“My kids call it the bologna store,” City Administrator Tom Nikunen said.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what color skin you have,” Velishek said. “I’d meet you, show you around town, give you my phone number. … Do you want something to eat? A cup of coffee? Let’s do it.”