The building, which now features an adjoining space, is undergoing renovations to separate the businesses. Tom Hanson hopes to open Corktown Deli and Brews by January, while Love Creamery owner Nicole Wilde anticipates a May opening.
Chris Benson of the adjacent business Frost River at 1910 W. Superior St., owns the entire 1902-1908 W. Superior St. complex. A firm believer in the movement to revitalize Lincoln Park, Benson has been choosy about tenants.
Insurance agents and other businesses have approached Benson about renting the space, but he wants to ensure whoever moves in has a “complementary fit” with existing businesses. He thinks local eateries provide more of a draw to the neighborhood.
“What we want are people down here,” he says. “We want someone who is going to add to the area and the feel and the vibe, someone more into the craft side of things.”
The corner spot at 1902 is now vacant. It has a sidewalk space for outdoor tables and chairs and Benson envisions a local craft pizza or specialty fish or meat shop succeeding in the space. Damage Boardshop leases 1904 W. Superior St., east of the eventual Corktown Taphouse.
“I’m not a developer. What I really am is I’m into the development of this area, from the standpoint of making sure it’s developed in a way where we all see a common goal,” says Benson. That common goal is a more active and vibrant Lincoln Park.
An artisan ice cream lounge
About a decade ago, Wilde started eyeing up the Lincoln Park business district, thinking it had great potential for a business venture. And instructor at the University of Minnesota Duluth with an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, she worked in Milwaukee on several main street revitalization projects in the past.
Around the same time, Wilde realized there wasn’t ice cream available locally that was made from all natural ingredients. She started to experiment with ice cream making and attended an executive course at Penn State — the same class that launched Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of the popular Ben & Jerry’s brand.
Love Creamery was born in 2014. Wilde started out selling ice cream at events. She now has two ice cream carts and has been expanding her wholesale business to coffee shops like Duluth Coffee Company, Cedar Coffee Company, Amity Coffee and Fika. Restaurants further up the shore like the New Scenic Café and the Angry Trout are also now serving Love Creamery ice cream.
Wilde’s interest in food systems influences her philosophy about using sustainable, quality ingredients. She doesn’t use preservatives and she makes regular trips to Osceola, Wis. because it’s the closest organic, family-run dairy farm.
Add-in ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible. Wilde and her boyfriend live on a farm north of Two Harbors where they’re growing perennial crops such as strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries, peppermint and chamomile.
Expensive ingredients and a painstaking production process require market positioning for the ice cream as a high-end product. “It’s about a two-day process to bring you a scoop of ice cream,” she explains.
Seasonality influences available flavors. For the recent Harvest Fest, Wilde made a blueberry lemon sorbet with blueberries from her farm. She had several other flavors on offer, including mint chip made with real peppermint and dark chocolate, walnut maple syrup and salted caramel. Love Creamery’s most popular flavor has been honey lavender.
Currently, Wilde makes ice cream at the Superior Business Center, a commercial kitchen available to small businesses in the community. This shared space has served her well but has now become a bottleneck to ramping up production and sales.
The new brick and mortar location will house a production facility, which Wilde is calling a “creamery,” as well as a lounge serving ice cream and other high-end treats.
Initially, Wilde was planning to buy a building in the area. She even had an accepted offer on the building next to OMC Smokehouse before realizing the cost to renovate the space for her needs was prohibitive.
Wilde says a leased space is ultimately a better plan for growing her business. Love Creamery will be accessible through the Frost River store and will have a door of its own on Superior Street. Wilde says being in close proximity to Benson and Hanson, two entrepreneurs she respects, will be both inspiring and challenging.
“I want to be surrounded by people like that … We have similar core philosophies, but they are way more business savvy than I am, and that will help me,” says Wilde. “I like the idea of a craft district — where people are thoughtful and mindful and passionate about their products.”
Deli to fill a niche
Hanson, who owns Duluth Grill and OMC Smokehouse, was talking to Benson about his idea for a deli well before he opened OMC in February. Hanson recognized a need for a fast casual restaurant and knew Benson wanted tenants that would help build the identity of the neighborhood.
While it might seem like a major undertaking to open a second restaurant within a year, Hanson points out that a lease makes the new business proposition less risky. A deli concept also allows for a smaller footprint, bill of fare and staff.
Corktown Deli and Brews will be a stark contrast to the Duluth Grill, with its extensive menu and 100 employees, but will build upon its success and that of OMC.
“I’m hoping to simplify and scale down some of the great things we’ve already been doing,” says Hanson.
The name “Corktown” is derived from a nickname for a portion of the West End business district that was home to a large Irish immigrant population (after County Cork, Ireland).
The new business will be located across the street from OMC, and Hanson expects it to also serve as a waiting area for the popular restaurant. Wine and local draft beer will be served and there’s the possibility for live music.
The deli will seat 50-60 people and feature takeout and to-go options. It will be fast casual dining with competitive pricing.
Customers will be able to build their own sandwiches, choosing from several meats such as pastrami, corned beef, turkey and roast beef, with added toppings to order. Fresh side dishes such as potato, quinoa and kale salad will be available too.
Hanson, who has been a strong advocate for Lincoln Park’s revitalization, expects the neighboring businesses to feed off one another. Since OMC doesn’t have much of a dessert menu, he plans to send customers over to Love Creamery after dinner.
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