West Duluth Posts

Iconic Jade Fountain will see new life in West Duluth

Kai Soderberg stands outside the Jade Fountain restaurant at 305 N. Central Ave. in West Duluth. Soderberg is leasing the space where he will open a tiki bar this summer. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

A long-running and largely unchanged Chinese restaurant — which closed for almost five years — will be reborn under new ownership as a tiki lounge when nightlife returns to normal in Duluth.

Ripped at the Kom-on-Inn in 2000

[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. Twenty years ago he visited the Kom-on-Inn in West Duluth and published this report for the April 5, 2000 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]

Granted, it does not take much to amaze me, but when I entered the Kom-on-Inn my spine just about shot out of the top of my head. I had always been under the impression that the Kom-on-Inn was a boring bar that was empty most of the time. But nothing could be further from the truth. It was … I don’t even know where to begin, so let me just walk you through the place.

First of all, it is important to know that everyone—every last person in the bar—was smoking a cigarette. I am not exaggerating when I say it was difficult to see across the room. At the very back of the bar, where I came in, a bunch of Tommy Boys talked on cellular telephones and shot pool with heavily hair-sprayed and lip-linered girls drinking bottles of Mountain Dew. Apparently they were stationed there to give newcomers like me the wrong impression of the place, for just past them, everything became drastically different.

After months lying in wait, Boreal House open in West Duluth

Katie Fast, left, and Julie LaTourelle stand outside their new drinking establishment last summer, before remodeling work began. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

Duluthians Katie Fast and Julie LaTourelle will open the doors to West Duluth’s newest drinking establishment at 3 p.m. today. The Boreal House at 330 N. 57th Ave. W. sits adjacent to the neighborhood’s oldest drinking establishment, the Kom-on-Inn.

R.I.P. Merritt Park Recreation Center Building

This week the field house at Merritt Park joined the growing list of historic West Duluth buildings demolished in recent years. The 2,016-square foot building was constructed in 1939.

The Slice: Tom Napoli’s Tortoise and Hare Mural

Artist Tom Napoli recreates Duluth on the side of the Tortoise and Hare Footwear store in West Duluth.

In its series The Slice, WDSE-TV presents short “slices of life” that capture the events and experiences that bring people together and speak to what it means to live up north.

West Duluth bar scene adding Boreal House

Katie Fast, left, and Julie LaTourelle stand outside 330 N. 57th Ave. W. The two women purchased the former home of RJ’s Coffee Den and plan to open a new bar in West Duluth. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

Two women plan to open a new bar later this fall in a West Duluth neighborhood that boasts some of the oldest drinking establishments in the city.

Katie Fast and Julie LaTourelle, operating as K & J Industries LLC, recently purchased the former RJ’s Coffee Den at 330 N. 57th Ave. W. The century-old building is being remodeled and is expected to reopen as the Boreal House in late November.

Beaner’s Central becomes Wussow’s Concert Cafe

West Theater struggles through restoration, opens June 21

Work on the West Theater marquee continued on June 19, two days ahead of a grand opening event.

The West Theater looked nothing like its movie palace glory days when Duluth Reader publisher Bob Boone bought the building in 2016.

Postcards from Duluth Motel

According to this postcard, Duluth Motel sat in some mysterious forest, perhaps offering the only toilet available for miles and miles. In reality, “Northwest’s Most Luxurious Motel” was near Denfeld High School and surrounded by West Duluth homes and businesses. A lush, undeveloped hillside was indeed in the distance, though not very similar looking to the illustration on the postcard.

Kmart gone, Spirit Valley hopes to rebound like Lincoln Park

The Spirit Valley business district sits just east of I-35 and includes a variety of businesses along Grand and Central avenues including the Super One grocery store in the foreground. (Photo by Cory Fechner, Liftoff Aerials)

The Spirit Valley business district in West Duluth took a serious hit in 2018 when Kmart closed but business leaders and city officials believe the area is ripe for a makeover that could match successful redevelopment work in Lincoln Park.

Barmuda Triangle of West Duluth

Sure, you’ve heard stories of mysterious and unusual disappearances in West Duluth. What exactly happened to old so-and-so last night? Well, there’s a good chance your friend slipped into the Barmuda Triangle.

West Theater renovation adds second theater property

Duluth Reader publisher and West Theater owner Robert Boone has purchased 321 N. Central Ave., next to his West Theater renovation project. The building, constructed in 1913, is the former Alhambra Theater and most recently housed Interior Tomato, a hydroponic gardening store.

An alternative weekly newspaper publisher currently renovating a West Duluth movie theater has purchased a second historic but mostly forgotten theater adjacent to his current project.

Postcard from Fairmount Park in 1948

This postcard of Duluth’s “municipal zoo,” now known as Lake Superior Zoo, was mailed 70 years ago today — Sept. 8, 1948.

So long, West Duluth Kmart

The Kmart store in my neighborhood closed last weekend. Now there’s a giant empty space in the Spirit Valley Mall in West Duluth, with a faded area above the doors where a sign once read: “Big Kmart.”

It took more than 30 years for the store to run itself out of business, and I’d probably need a degree in finance and a long look inside the books of parent company Sears Holdings Corporation to ever understand. How does a neighborhood’s only department store — a place that’s known for always having lines at the cash registers — go out of business?

The answer to that question might be that retail stores are struggling in general, and any store with massive overhead costs that provides a lousy shopping experience doesn’t stand a chance. And the West Duluth Kmart was a lousy shopping experience.

The lines at Kmart perhaps weren’t due to the high volume of traffic, but instead the understaffing at the store. Target or Wal-Mart might have a dozen checkouts open at once; Kmart seldom had more than two.

Ice Cream Delicacy in West Duluth by Denfeld

I tasted T-Icy Roll Ice Cream yesterday at 4602 Grand Ave., next to an old favorite, Zhong Hua.