The buzz about retail opportunities in Cottage Grove is growing, Mayor Myron Bailey said following his return from the annual International Council of Shopping Centers conference.

During the two-day visit to Las Vegas, Bailey said he and Economic Development Director Danette Parr met with dozens of prospective retailers, taking with them updated information about the economic viability of the community.

“This was one of the most successful trips out there because of the level of awareness and desire expressed of coming to Cottage Grove,” Bailey said.

The mayor said the ongoing attention given to the vacant Home Depot and Rainbow Foods properties have developers eyeing the city. However, Bailey and Parr shopped around the proposed Shoppes at Cottage View concept further south on East Point Douglas Road.

A movie theater chain expressed interest in locating on the former drive-in site, but Bailey declined to identify the brand.

“The movie theater chains we reached out to are chains that are looking at coming into Minnesota or are already here but have a limited presence and want to expand,” he said. “We are talking with one chain that we are going to pursue.”

The chain said the city could support a 10- to 14-screen theater, Bailey said. The former drive-in sign could also make a reappearance.

“We still have access to that sign and (the movie theater chain was) aware that it was a drive-in but not about the sign,” Bailey said, “and they thought it was pretty cool.”

ALDI was another topic of discussion. Bailey said the grocer is “absolutely interested in Cottage Grove” and that the retailer has specified a site, which Bailey did not disclose. However, he said it will not be in the Gateway North district.

“It depends on a couple of other players but they are not going to be part of Home Depot,” Bailey said. “If everything falls into place in the next 120 days, I would say that you could probably see construction of an ALDI by the end of the year.”

Bailey added the negotiations between the brokers for ALDI and the owner of the potential site are ongoing.

Another branded company, Kwik Trip, met with the city officials during the convention and have identified at least two potential locations for its convenience stores and gas stations: near Walmart and possibly the former G-Will Liquors site.

“We expect to hear from (Kwik Trip) in the next week or so,” Bailey said.

Other meetings with brokers from Dunkin Donuts, Denny’s, T.J. Maxx, Famous Footwear, Maurices, Dress Barn and Lane Bryant were successful, Bailey said, but did not guarantee new tenants.

They also met with smaller service-type businesses, including The UPS Store and GameStop.

“We wanted to hone in on the smaller players, because they are still important because it provides a service we don’t currently have in Cottage Grove,” Bailey said.

Bailey said they also promoted the largely undeveloped West Point Douglas corridor, but as of right now there hasn’t been much interest.

“A lot of our conversations with retailers we heard, ‘We want to be in Cottage Grove, what can you do to help us?’” Bailey said. “These retailers are now understanding that there is opportunity in Cottage Grove.”