Obits are not common on Perfect Duluth Day, but Mike Hruza wasn’t a common person. He was known to hundreds, thousands of Duluthians as “Big Friendly Mike” because he worked for decades selling games and comics, or because he played games and talked comics with anyone who would listen (including the times I sat next to him on the bus).
Left: Maggie’s restaurant in Bayfield marked 40 years in business in August and announced its closure in October. Right: The Crooked Spoon Cafe in Grand Marais was destroyed by fire in April. (Photos via Facebook)
The scourge of COVID-19 has challenged restaurant and bar owners at every level. The temporary closures during the pandemic are too long to list, and the industry outlook for 2021 is filled with uncertainty, but surprisingly few businesses announced they were calling it quits in 2020.
Two of the region’s most notable restaurant losses occurred in small towns away from Duluth, and COVID-19 was perhaps only loosely to blame.
On a bridge in 1965 (photo by Henry Sojourner) | Holmes County Community Center, February 1965 (photo by Elaine Howmiller, Nashville Tennessean) | Portrait, 2012 (photo by Sam Alvar) | Right to Vote March in Jackson, June 15, 1965 (photo by an unknown civil rights worker)
Author and activist Susan Hasalo Sojourner died in Minneapolis on Dec. 4 at the age of 79. She lived in Duluth for more than two decades, beginning in the mid 1990s.
Sojourner fought tirelessly for justice throughout her life — for civil rights in Holmes County, Miss. and also for women’s liberation and LGBTQ+ rights during her years in Washington D.C. and Duluth. A complete obituary can be found on the Hodroff-Epstein Memorial Chapels website.
The Upper Deck Restaurant at 1415 N. 46th St. in Superior has been closed for more than a year. Its contents were auctioned off on Jan. 31. According to the Superior Telegram, the new owner will be turning the building into an airplane hangar.
The Northeast Bar & Grill, also known as NE BBQ & Smokehouse, formally announced its closing on Facebook today. The last day of business was Oct. 12.
“We so loved our patrons and are so very sad to end the business that we loved so well,” part of the message read. “Unfortunately, we are receiving more inquiries now than we ever did while in business. That said: If you love a place, support it and patronize often. We have several surviving businesses in town that need that type of support.”