Despite loss, Red Wing pride soars

Tears welled in the eyes of many who watched. The pep band’s fight song known by all in attendance echoed off historic bricks. Cheerleaders led a crowd of hundreds in “R-E-D-W-I-N-G” chants as the firefighters hoisted an American flag high above West Fourth Street. Indeed, tears trickled.

As the community gathered Wednesday afternoon to learn the results of the Small Business Revolution’s $500,000 revitalization contest, a sea of red — balloons, signs, lights and clothing — flooded the Sheldon. The theater reached maximum capacity within 10 minutes of doors opening. Attendees then poured into the library and neighboring businesses.

On the Sheldon stage, community leadership spoke, exciting the crowd while winding down the last minutes before the big reveal. As Deluxe Corporation’s Amanda Brinkman’s recently familiar face appeared on the screen, the crowd grew silent. The anticipation and hope were palpable.

“Bristol Borough, Pa.,” Brinkman said.

Red Wing fell slightly short of the half million dollar revitalization. Painstakingly short. Two percent of the over 1 million votes separated Red Wing from Bristol Borough, said Cameron Potts, Deluxe vice president of public relations. Potts said the final day of voting saw a constant battle for the lead between the top two cities.

Red Wing Downtown Main Street Executive Director Megan Tsui rallied the audience after congratulating Bristol Borough on the win.

“We might not have won Deluxe’s Small Business Revolution, but we are just getting started with the Red Wing Revolution,” Tsui said to loud applause. “Before you head out to a big box store on the edge of town, try our local stores first and see if they might have what you need. If a store doesn’t have what you need, ask.”

Tsui then shared powerful numbers illustrating opportunities for community-driven small business support.

“There are 6,562 households in Red Wing,” she said. “If every household committed to spending just $100 downtown and in local businesses every month, we’d generate $7.9 million in revenue for our local business economy. That, my friends, is the true power of our revolution.”

The sting undoubtedly will be felt after a second-place finish out of 14,000 applicants, but Red Wing is poised to rebound with the momentum, pride and enthusiasm fostered during the Small Business Revolution campaign, leaders say. The opening paragraph of Downtown Main Street’s application for the $500,000 contest rings truer now as the community revolutionizes on its own.

“The beautiful river city of Red Wing, Minn., is much like the boots manufactured here at the Red Wing Shoe Company; tough, strong, built by hand, and full of entrepreneurial spirit. Just like the laces on a boot, tradition and heritage run through the veins of this community of 16,500 people.”

Tsui addressed the outburst of community support in a Facebook video.

“If you’ve been inspired by what has happened over the last few weeks and you think you want to volunteer and get involved, email me, and we will figure out the best way to keep people involved and engaged with downtown and the community,” she said.

Tsui can be reached at

—Samantha Bengs, Republican Eagle Reporter