Current Events Posts

Commerce on the River: Willard Munger Inn

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OneRiverMN-Logo-FC-BadgeIt all started when Willard Munger opened the Willard Munger Inn in 1950, before the Interstate Highway System and I-35 existed, when State Highway 23 was the main road into Duluth. Over time, proximity to the St. Louis River has come to mean more and more to the business as the health of the waterway has improved and outdoor tourism has grown.

Jeff Munger, grandson of the founder and current manager of the motel, recalls how his grandfather lived at the inn and woke up early every morning to tend to his guests until 1991, when his son Willard Jr. took over managing the operations. The inn has since expanded, employing eight people in the high season of summer.

Commerce on the River: Loll Designs


OneRiverMN-Logo-FC-BadgeIn a manufacturing facility a few hundred feet from Stryker Bay in West Duluth, Greg Benson leads a company dedicated to making outdoor furniture “for the modern lollygagger.” Before launching Loll Designs, however, Benson built skateboard ramps. He started out in his neighbor’s garage and eventually worked with municipalities to design and implement custom skate parks. The excess materials turned out to make attractive and durable Adirondack-style chairs, and a new business was born.

“A lot of people assume that I must have been a skater, but really I enjoy hiking, kayaking, camping and being outdoors much more,” Benson says. He and his brother Dave, both University of Minnesota Duluth graduates, along with Tony Ciardelli , founded both Loll and Epicurean, a company that makes cutting boards and other kitchen products. They sold TrueRide in 2008 to a California company and took what they had learned and ran with it.

R.I.P. Walt Pederson

Walter PedersonWalter H. Pederson, a Duluth native and member of the Plaisted Arctic expedition, died Friday in St. Cloud at the age of 88.

Pederson served as mechanic on Ralph Plaisted’s crew, which reached the North Pole by snowmobile in 1968. The subject gained new attention last month when the New York Times published an account of the expedition. In early April the Hollywood infotainment website Deadline reported Will Ferrell will star in film about the Plaisted expedition.

Pederson’s obituary in the St. Cloud Times notes he was a “sailor, cowboy, mechanic, racer, teacher, businessman, inventor, explorer, author, politician, entrepreneur, scientist, private eye, hero, friend, husband, father and grandfather.” Services will be held Friday in Milaca.

NorShor Theatre: A Look Inside Before the Restoration


Dan Turner spelunks the NorShor Theatre and Temple Opera Block in the latest feature on his Substreet website. From the projection room to the roof to the squatter’s apartment in the basement, it’s one of the last chances to see things as they were/are. Construction will be begin soon to renovate the NorShor, which will be operated by the Duluth Playhouse.

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Maurices opening new headquarters Friday


Maurices employees will move from the current buildings to the new headquarters between Fourth and Fifth avenues west and Superior Street. The first half of the 450 downtown Maurices employees will get settled over the weekend, and a second wave of employees will make the move next weekend. All will be working in the new headquarters by May 2.

R.I.P. Prince

Prince - Liu Heung Shing  AP 2015MPR: Minnesota music legend Prince dead at 57
Photos: The life and legacy of Prince

Epic Restaurant & Lounge opening soon in Superior

IMG_8305Superior will have a new fine-dining establishment with the opening of Epic Restaurant & Lounge, tentatively planned for sometime in May.

The restaurant, lounge and event venue will be located in the old Joe’s Pagoda Chinese Restaurant location at 3223 Tower Ave., between Campbell Lumber & Supply and Grizzly’s Food-Fired Grill. Joe’s Pagoda owners, Joe and Sue Hear, retired in 2015 after 16 years in business.

NorShor redevelopment will not include tower marquee


NorShor Theatre TowerThe announcement in 2013 that the NorShor Theater’s “tower marquee will rise again” appears to have been overly optimistic. During the Duluth City Council’s debate and 8-1 approval of plans to renovate the historic theater, Councilor Joel Sipress noted:

“The tower is not part of this restoration. There is some talk of maybe that being a future endeavor. [I] just don’t want anyone to be disappointed that when this is done the tower isn’t there. So I just thought I would share that with the public.”

Video of the full council debate and public comments is above. Sipress’ brief mention of the tower is at the 37:07 mark.

Duluth Folk School

Duluth Folk School LogoThe Duluth Folk School has been a long time in the making, but it is open for business.

What: Duluth Folk School’s mission is to teach skills, arts and crafts that enrich personal lives and the community, while having a load of fun!

Who: Bryan French and Tim Bates have been planning the Duluth Folk School for the past few years.

Where: The Duluth Folk School is operating with the Nomad Model. There isn’t a single home – yet. For now, classes will be offered at Hartley Nature Center, First Presbyterian Church of Duluth and the Lester Amity Chalet. As the capital fund is developed, a permanent home will eventually be bought or built.

When: The first class is on May 3. Over time, classes will be offered every week, in multiple locations.

Why: People want to be able to create with their hands, to connect with others, and have fun.

Classes currently available on the calendar include Springtime Bike Maintenance and Beginner Beekeeping, and several more will be added soon.

People interested in becoming an instructor can visit the Become an Instructor page.

Duluth Folk School – Create with your hands, build community and have fun!

Commerce on the River: Nelson’s Guide and Charter Service

Charlie Nelson Fishing Duluth

OneRiverMN-Logo-FC-BadgeCharlie Nelson’s love of fishing started early. He spent much of his childhood catching fish near Cloquet, where his parents owned Big Lake Resort. After his parents sold the resort and bought a cabin on Island Lake north of Duluth, Nelson ramped up his quest for walleyes and spent countless hours in a fishing boat.

Through his 26 years of experience as a lieutenant colonel and an F-16 instructor pilot with the Minnesota Air National Guard, he developed a passion for teaching. Now retired, he has turned his knack for teaching and fishing into Charlie Nelson Guide and Charter Services. His website refers to him as “The Captain” whose passion for fishing is only surpassed by his love of flying.

Seasonal restaurants reopening in and around Duluth for 2016

IMG_8288Nothing signifies the emergence of spring quite like the reappearance of malts on the Duluth Lakewalk and the wafting scent of fried fare from seasonal burger joints. For those ready to indulge, here’s a rundown on seasonal restaurant re-openings.

Gordy’s Hi-Hat in Cloquet reopened on March 20, the first day of spring. The classic hamburger stand is a favorite among locals and a popular stop for Twin Cities travelers headed to cabins up north. The restaurant, now in it’s 56th season, is known for its hand-pattied burgers and onion rings, and was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. A&Dubs

A & Dubs, another nostalgic burger joint in Duluth’s West End, will reopen on Mother’s Day, May 8. The seasonal, family-run business at 3131 W. Third St. was founded in 1948 as Duluth’s first drive-in restaurant. A & Dubs holds a special place in the hearts of residents of western Duluth. It’s a remarkable relic; nowhere else in Duluth has ice-cold root beer and burger baskets delivered by carhops for in-vehicle consumption.

Ice cream aficionados will be pleased to know the Denfeld Dairy Queen and the PortLand Malt Shoppe are already serving up decadent desserts.

One River, Two Islands

Clough Island photo by Richard Hamilton Smith

OneRiverMN-Logo-FC-BadgeAs part of the One River, Many Stories project, Lake Superior Magazine’s April/May issue features Molly Hoeg’s profile of Clough and Spirit islands, titled “One River, Two Islands: A History & Culture Tour on the St. Louis River.”

From centuries-old bloody battles between Ojibwe and Dakota, to fist-fight riots at a resort in the late 1800s, through to modern-day habitat restoration, the history of the two islands is colorful and deep.

“Modern-day paddlers clearly feel this aura around Spirit Island just as they feel drawn to explore and enjoy Clough Island,” the story concludes. “Knowledge of both islands’ histories enriches any journey along the river. Cleaving its water with kayak or canoe, they paddle between two cultures, between the past and the future and between the heart of the forest at the river’s beginning and the vast expanse of the inland sea at its end.”

Canal Park Timber Lodge Steakhouse won’t reopen

Canal Park Timber Lodge Steakhouse Timberlodge Steakhouse

After 20 years in business, the Timber Lodge Steakhouse in Canal Park is calling it quits. Bruce Taher, CEO of Timber Lodge’s parent company, Taher Inc., says he regrets having to make the decision. He hoped to close the restaurant for the winter and reopen it this spring, but a number of challenges precipitated the restaurant’s demise.

Mysterious Masonic building seeks new owner

Real Estate agent Jim Aird in the balcony of the old Euclid Masonic Lodge in West Duluth. Aird's grandfather was a member of the fraternity and had a room named after him in the building.

Real Estate agent Jim Aird in the balcony of the old Euclid Masonic Lodge in West Duluth. Aird’s grandfather was a member of the fraternity and had a room named after him in the building.

An historic and mysterious West Duluth building has stood abandoned for a decade after an ancient fraternal organization sold the property to a developer who died before initiating a renovation.

Euclid Lodge 198 erected the boxy, brick and largely windowless building at 611 N. Central Avenue in 1909, a period of great growth for the centuries-old, international fraternity of Masons. During its almost 100 years in operation, some of the most prominent West Duluth businessmen and civic leaders of the time participated in secretive ceremonies, jovial fellowship and benevolent works inside its walls.

St. Louis River Corridor Parks Mini-Master Plans

St Louis River Corridor Parks Mini Master PlanDuluth’s Parks and Recreation division is seeking public comment on 11 neighborhood parks mini-master plans, which cover improvements and additions to neighborhood parks within the St. Louis River Corridor. The included parks are Piedmont, Midtowne, Harrison, Merritt, Irving, Grassy Point, Keene Creek, Norton, Riverside, Smithville, Morgan, Blackmer, Fond du Lac and Historical.

The draft plans and comment form are available at duluthmn.gov. The plan will be presented to the Parks Commission on April 20; vote for approval will be at the May 11 meeting. Public comments are being accepted through April 20.