In the past seven months, nine new businesses have committed to setting up shop along Main Street in historic downtown Duluth.City officials said they attracted business by leasing space well below market price. But they said the major boost came after the restaurant chain, Pure Taqueria, agreed to build a new location at the entrance to downtown.

“If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re looking for signs of where should I invest my treasure, that is a big sign,” said Duluth Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee.

McGahee said construction of the Pure Taqueria restaurant was the key to turning the area around.

“The downtown, we have to admit, was struggling for a great deal,” he said.

The buildings along Main Street have been half-empty for nearly three years. Major projects crashed along with the economy. So, the city had to work with what it had, offering space in existing buildings on the cheap and reminding entrepreneurs of obvious things that could be overlooked. For example, trains stop traffic 35 times a day, so thousands of drivers have no choice but to stop and look around.

“We have a lot of long-term businesses that have struggled through the economic times that we were going through that managed to hang on and this is one of the things they were hanging on for,” said McGahee.

Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh spotted construction projects across the downtown, including a local bakery and even a specialty beer shop.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t the right place,” said Greg Lindquist, owner of Best of Brews. He said his beer shop will sell specialty beers in growlers to go.

“A growler is a half-gallon glass jug that you can fill with draft beer to go to take home,” he explained.

Lindquist said the shop is his post-retirement future and he also hopes it will be a big part of the future success of downtown Duluth. All of the new shops should open my mid-September. That will mark the first time in a decade that all of the retail space in the historic block of Duluth buildings is filled at the same time.