At the Rosemount Legion there's a new look, new attitudeFrom carpet and ceiling tiles to bar fixtures and repaired bathrooms, there is a lot that is new this year at the Rosemount American Legion. The most important upgrade, though, might be a lot less tangible.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
From carpet and ceiling tiles to bar fixtures and repaired bathrooms, there is a lot that is new this year at the Rosemount American Legion. The most important upgrade, though, might be a lot less tangible.
Club leadership has been working hard over the past year to spruce up the physical space the Legion occupies, but they’ve been working just as hard to improve attitudes at the club. They’ve tried to make the club friendlier to the community, and they’ve tried to get members connected in ways that go beyond just paying dues and showing up for a beer or a burger every now and then.
It’s taken a lot of conversation and a lot of pressure, both subtle and not so subtle, but the efforts are starting to pay dividends. Thanks to a reimagining of the club’s restaurant operations the Legion is turning a profit – though just a small one for now – for the first time in about 15 years.
That is a big deal at a time when other Legion clubs are struggling. The Farmington American Legion is in the process of selling its building to cover debts from renovations following a fire several years ago, and others around the state have closed.
Getting to this point has taken a combination of physical labor and public relations. Commander Bob Racette has made it his goal over the past year to tackle some of renovation needs that have stacked up over the years. With the help of Sons of the American Legion commander Chris Edman, American Legion Auxiliary president Kyla Mitcheltree and gambling manager Jon Edman he’s set about raising money and doing whatever he can to get people engaged in the Legion.
So far, he’s excited about what he has seen.
“It hasn’t just been one person, it’s been everyone working together to make it a much better Legion,” Racette said. “I’m extremely proud of these guys, because I can’t do it myself.”
Racette has made a point of recognizing people who make contributions to the Legion. Where in the past volunteer efforts might have gone unnoticed, Racette has reached out with plaques and certificates and even just simple thank yous.
The club has also tried to build connections with younger veterans like the National Guard soldiers based in Rosemount. The Legion holds a monthly lunch for the Red Bulls. So far the club hasn’t seen a big growth in the number of younger members, but there have been a few.
“It’s hard to get younger men and women to join the Legion, because they think it’s an old guy’s club,” Jon Edman said.
Changing perceptions like that has been another big part of the Legion’s effort over the past year. Racette and the other leaders have tried to make the club friendlier, so non-members are not greeted by dozens of silent stares when they walk in the door. There has been a push for members to get up and greet people when they come in.
Behind the bar, a sign warns that people who use profanity or engage in abusive behavior will be told to leave. Jon Edman said he made it a point to use “told” in the sign rather than “asked,” and Racette is fond of pointing out that people who don’t like the rules are welcome to visit one of the other bars within walking distance.
“We’ve made some enemies because we put our foot down on the negativity, but we’ve learned to put our foot down,” Mitcheltree said.
That seems to be making a difference. The physical improvements have made it easier to take pride in the Legion building, and the other changes have made the club a place people like to be.
“For a while, because of some of the things that were here, it wasn’t fun to come,” Chris Edman said. “It’s fun again.”
It’s been a busy year at the Legion, and it doesn’t appear things will slow down anytime soon. The club will hold its next big fundraiser, a 50s-themed car show and dance – starting at 4 p.m. June 2. The club’s next big project is an upgrade to the air conditioning system.
Leprechaun Days, their biggest fundraising period, is in July.
“We still have a ways to go and a lot of things to do, but with the people who are here and volunteering I’m very optimistic we will do as much this year as we did last year,” Racette said.