Today my friends Linda Stroback and Bob Hocking announced that they would be closing Zimmy’s Restaurant tonight until further notice. A year of tough economic conditions in downtown Hibbing and back taxes is forcing the closure, with the hope of the restaurant restructuring and reopening in the near future.
Linda described the company’s woes in a letter posted on the Dylan site Expecting Rain last Friday, and in the Facebook post announcing the closure earlier today.
This is a hard day. Not just because Linda and Bob are close friends and fellow collaborators on Bob Dylan Days in Hibbing, but because this is another example of the lost economic opportunity on the Iron Range I’ve been writing about.
As robust as the iron mining industry might be right now, the economic transfer of rocks on the edge of town is not trickling into the towns the way it did 80 years ago. Population loss, social stratification, and a failure to generate alternative ways to use downtown business space caused this, and will cause more damage yet if unabated.
Further, in Zimmy’s, we’ve lost another arts venue and the only serious celebration of the most famous and influential musician to ever come from the Iron Range. Dylan Days 2014 is still on, but we’re in a world of hurt figuring out if Zimmy’s will be back up and running by then.
Years of arguments about PolyMet, Essar and hand-wringing over mining have not and will not fix this problem. We need to look and act inward, for our own downtowns and the institutions we love. If we don’t, we might look around one day and realize they’re gone. Just like so many before.
I join many on the Iron Range and around the world who hope for Zimmy’s to reopen soon. I think there’s a good chance. But this is a stark reminder of what’s at stake in this 21st Century economic battle.