Viewpoint: Cottage View Drive-In owner thankful as drive-in's long run nears endAs with so many things in our fast-moving world, the fact that changes are inevitable does not necessarily make them easy.
By: Gerry Herringer, South Washington County Bulletin
In 1964 my father and I purchased a 134-acre, mostly unused farm site in the fine Township of Cottage Grove. This was done, as we had done elsewhere in the then-fringes of the metro area, as an investment vehicle. The construction of the outdoor theatres and in one case a golf driving range was all done by our small excavating company. We determined it was a way to pay our land holding costs while awaiting development to reach us, at which point the property could be converted to a higher and better use.
At this point in time, our other properties have all been developed. The Cottage View Drive-In remains and has been a much longer wait than ever anticipated. There have been a series of proposals over the past decade or so that for various reasons did not come to fruition, but the proposal before us now looks promising.
In the late 1950s, the ‘60s and early ‘70s there were at various times some 22 drive-in screens in what could be considered the metro area. There are now two. The reasons for the demise of the drive-ins are apparent. As land values and their corresponding real estate taxes, plus all other operational expenses, increase, a point is reached where it becomes difficult, bordering on impossible, to operate a four-month business with 12-month expenses. There are, of course, other negative impacts that have contributed to the disappearance of 20 drive-ins.
It has been a long, interesting run for the Cottage View. For its first 25 years our family operated the theatre. We were fortunate, beyond words, to have a Cottage Grove resident and teacher, Jim Shinn, as our on-site manager. Those early years, as with many new businesses, were tough financial sledding and the operation had to be continually subsidized. We were fortunate to team, on a lease arrangement, with Mann Theatres for the next 21 years. They have continued our film selection policy of tilting toward family oriented pictures whenever possible and have been a great tenant. Mann has operated under the shadow of potential redevelopment for a number of years on a year-to-year basis. Without them and the understanding approach taken by the City of Cottage Grove and Washington County to their operation the theatre would have closed long ago. To all I express my sincere gratitude.
Am I sad the time has finally come for the theatre to close? You bet I am. When you invest, not just financially, but physically in its construction and emotionally in its operations and being, how can you not be sad? We have enjoyed the business and the Cottage Grove community and will certainly miss it. Going forward, God willing, I plan on being involved in the development of the remainder of the land and trust you will view it as a positive addition to your growing community.
2012 will make the 46th and likely last season for the Cottage View. We wish to thank all of our faithful customers that we have known through the years as well as all of our equally faithful ex-employees. We hope the theatre contributed a little something to each of you. Finally, if you have not been to the Cottage View lately or ever, I’d encourage you to visit and enjoy this venue of an unfortunately bygone era.
As with so many things in our fast-moving world, the fact that changes are inevitable does not necessarily make them easy.
Herringer owns the Cottage View Drive-In and is in the process of a development deal that includes a Walmart store on part of the drive-in property.