New business, realtor coming to Frazee

Photo by Robert Williams
A new downtown business, Mercantile 1898, is planned to be opening soon in the old Hostel Hornet. The antique and online auction shop is planning to officially open in June.

By Robert Williams


Neil Lewis of Trade Talents, based in Mahnomen, visited the Frazee Economic Development Authority (EDA) to discuss building affordable housing in the area.

Contributed photo
Frazee has a new realtor in town, Jena Seim, a graduate of Frazee-Vergas High School, who is currently working out of her home.

Lewis’ concept is based loosely on the Habitat for Humanity concept.

“I think there’s a chance of using partial volunteer labor, as well as, skilled labor and training for others who are younger,” said Lewis.

Lewis has a group of four senior advisors and designers that are looking to join forces with builders on the ground to help combat the housing shortage across Minnesota.

“Anything can be done, design-wise, but it usually boils down to there is a certain amount of space that people can afford based on their budgets,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges noted by Lewis was finding sites where it is affordable to construct housing units.

“Around this area, there are some sites that maybe could work for affordability,” he said.

Lewis discussed one initial plan from the group that ranges from 800-1,600-square feet, a two bedroom, one bath to a four-bedroom, three bath unit.

Lewis is admittedly in the grass roots stage of what he is proposing that included plans already set to fabricate some portions of homes off-site, trusses, for instance, to remain affordable.

He anticipates his group would be fabricating the entire interior structure of a home. The shell of the structure would be built on site, but the interior would arrive pre-fab to allow for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

“Labor is a big part of the problem today,” he said. “Ultimately, to deliver what I’m describing, it takes people that are pretty knowledgeable.”

Lewis stated he has recruited experienced builders and designers to help streamline the process to affordability, while he shops around his idea.

“I’m trying to figure out who wants it to happen where,” he said. 

Lewis has discussed his plan with other city groups and contractors in New York Mills, Battle Lake, Thief River Falls, Bagley and Ashby.

“It takes more than people just talking about stuff and there are a lot of people talking about it, but we’re actually planning on doing something about it,” he said.

The EDA passed a resolution to form a subcommittee to work with Lewis to evaluate whether Frazee is a plausible area for Lewis’ plan.

Heidi Moen, the Positive Community Norms grant coordinator and GROW Frazee Vergas facilitator at the school suggested contacting Jim Rader and Aaron Boyer as the school is looking to add programs that bring more trade-related instruction  to the school.

Downtown retail space

EDA Consultant Karen Pifher gave her monthly report on various entities and buildings in Frazee, beginning with the downtown retail center.

The EDA had agreed on how to move forward with completing the build out of the interior space.

Meanwhile, Pifher has given six tours to different groups and has garnered interest from more than one of those parties.

“Two of them are very serious about moving in there,” Pifher said. “If they do, they will take up the entire space.”

Pifher also met with a team of 11 people interested in moving an existing retail outlet into the building that would allow for the easiest buildout—mainly flooring and necessary walls.

The other entity would require a firewall and full, industrial kitchen, which would dramatically increase build out costs.

“I would recommend we not build it out at this point until we find out for sure if they’re going in there,” said Pifher. “Lots of interest, which is great.”

Both parties would be leasing the space, like the building’s lone occupant Seip Drug.


City administrator Stephanie Poegel announced that her office has received a request for proposal for the Mikkelsen property located next to Dollar General. 

Initial talks began in late March with various city council members submitting a list of questions to the potential developer.

Those answers and further discussion are scheduled for the upcoming city council meeting on Wednesday, May 8, at the Event Center.

Pifher also announced a new realtor in town, Jena Seim.

Seim is a graduate of Frazee-Vergas High School and the daughter of Jim and Jill Rader.

She can be reached at (218) 849-0547 and, or via Facebook and Instagram.

Pifher also noted another new business coming to town, Mercantile 1898, in the old Hostel Hornet. The antique and online auction shop is planning to open in June.