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July 26, 2016

Golden Corral has not tied up a Med City spot

Don't expect a return of the Golden (Corral) age in the Med City.

An announcement about the Golden Corral all-you-can-eat restaurant chain taking over ex-Old Country Buffet spaces in the Twin Cities had local buffet buffs celebrating last week. Rochester was mentioned as a candidate because it has its own empty ex-OCB spot.

Old-country-buffet-2While it looks as though the restaurant going into the open spot at 1300 Salem Road SW will be a buffet, the word is it won't be a Golden Corral.

Darci Fenske, of Paramark Real Estate, says she has brokered a lease deal for the restaurant space in the TJ Maxx & More Plaza. It sounds as if Golden Corral might have put in one of the nine bids for OCB space. If so, it didn't win.

4fc28fb6f45f1467382372-golden-corralThe Twin Cities restaurateur who has locked up the spot still is working out his plan for the future restaurant, so he is keeping his plans under wraps for the moment.

The unconfirmed buzz is that he may be working on some version of an American/Chinese buffet.

Old Country abruptly shuttered its Rochester eatery in Chamberb 044early March, along with a number of ones in the Twin Cities area, as part of its bankruptcy. The large restaurant at 1300 Salem Road SW has stood empty since then.

That left a hole in Rochester's food lineup similar to what happened when the beloved Golden Corral closed its restaurant at 2775 43rd St. NW in 2007.

The popular buffet chain had operated there for six years, until the owners revamped it into Gorilla's Sports Bar and Grill. After some attempts to change and find more customers, Gorilla's closed in 2010.

July 22, 2016

New leader to take reins at Stewartville's Geotek

One of Stewartville's largest employers will have a new CEO at the helm.

Geotek, which makes fiberglass products for the electric utility and fence markets, has named Ben Wiltsie its new chief executive officer. Wiltsie will replace Dale Nordquist, who is stepping down after six years and will become chairman of the board. 

Wiltsie, who was chosen after a comprehensive succession planning process and a yearlong search, will start work on Aug. 1. He previously served as the director of marketing and business Development for Winona-based RTP Co.

Slide6Nordquist will replace Pat Mitchell, who is retiring, as chairman of the board.

Geotek, which employs about 150 people, has more than doubled its facilities and increased its revenue by 120 percent during Nordquist's tenure as CEO.

It is considered the market leader in its niche of pultrusion fiberglass products for the electrical utilities and for agriculture fencing. The utilities industry's use of fiberglass arms over wood or metal is growing, and demand is expected to continue to grow.

The fiberglass product manufacturer built a new 41,674-square-foot facility next to its existing 54,000-square-foot plant in 2011.

In 2016, Geotek won the Best Place to Work Award from the Southeast Minnesota Workforce Development Board.

Conrad F. Fingerson and Amy L. Donahoe originally launched Geotek in 1991 in Rushford. They moved it to Stewartville in 1994. In 2009, they sold it to St. Cloud-based Granite Equity Partners.

In 2010, Norquist was brought on as president and CEO. He previously served in the same role for well-known southeastern Minnesota manufacturer Zareba Systems.

July 12, 2016

Civic Inn = The Parker

07122016theparker 6a00d83451cc8269e2011570b90dd1970b-800wiThe new sign is up across from the Post-Bulletin for The Parker, the transformed Civic Inn.

The 96-year-old building at 101 East Center St. has been transformed and upgraded in the past few months.

A grand opening for the "dorm-style" complex with 62 units is slated for Friday.

July 11, 2016

Taco truck owners follow dream to open restaurant

This is the second food truck/cart to lock down a brick and mortar home in Rochester in recent days.

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Sometimes a dream becomes reality.

Earlier this year, Mario and Maria Mollina launched a taco truck on Rochester's North Broadway with their daughter, Jennifer Gordon. They call it Tacos El Sueno. El Sueno translates to The Dream.

Now the family is working to take their dream to the next level. They are opening a permanent Rochester restaurant called El Sueno Tacoreria at 1203 Seventh St. NW. That's across from the Northgate Center retail plaza.

07112016elsueno"This has been my father's dream for a long time," said Gordon. "Hopefully, we'll open within a month or so."

The Tacos El Sueno truck now serves a basic array of tacos and burritos, but Gordon said that menu will expand significantly 

"With the food truck, we're limited with what we can do. We'll be adding a lot more choices in the restaurant. My mother has a lot more homemade recipes," she said.

Once the restaurant opens, it will seat about 50 diners. The Molina family will staff it.

What will happen to their popular taco truck at 1005 N Broadway Ave. when the restaurant opens?

That's not clear yet, said Gordon. They really enjoy operating the truck, but the first priority will be staffing the restaurant. If they can't staff both, the truck will go dark until they can do both.

 

July 08, 2016

Old Abe Coffee to park the cart, open a shop

A high-profile member of Rochester's small food/drink cart community has lined up a permanent home.

Old Abe Coffee Co., which serves cold brew coffee and unique food, is a familiar sight in downtown Rochester. Now Abe Sauer is planning to set up shop in a fixed address near Rochester's Cooke Park. He eventually will move into a house-turned-commercial building at 832 Seventh St. NW. Westwood Realty last occupied that spot.

Old+abe+serving+4The new place will be called Old Abe at Cooke.

"I am very happy to announce Old Abe is playing fair and is now a property tax-paying Rochester business," stated Sauer via email. "Old Abe at Cooke will be an extension of what I have been doing on the trike. Fun and food and fun food (and our popular cold brew coffee). It will be goofy. Maybe a little unpredictable."

Beside serving coffee and food, he wants to create a bike-friendly, fun spot for families near a park and the growing Cooke Park arts district.

"I hope to create a social space for the neighborhood and Cooke Park users. Activating Cooke Park will be a goal as it’s one of Rochester’s best located parks, on the bike path, and canopied in shade," he wrote. "In particular, I want to create a place for young families that will, if all goes as planned, include a dedicated kids playroom so parents can enjoy their meal without fighting a toddler at the table. It will also include an expanded menu influenced by both my own vegetarian-leaning diet and my many years in Asia."

Sauer doesn't have a timeline for parking the cart and opening the new shop. The first step will be renovating the 1950s house with the help of Rochester architect Adam Ferrari of 9.Square. He estimates the earliest he'll be able to open is later this fall.

So why the decision to park his anachronistic coffee trike/cart?

"First and foremost, I needed space to grow. But also I want to create something distinctly geared for the thousands of younger families in Rochester that often get lost in the food and beverage landscape. I also want to create a fun space for Rochester residents that are NOT focused solely on the downtown and immediate area," said Sauer.

 

July 07, 2016

Broadway Flashback - early 2013 Broadway at Center plan

Following Wednesday's announcement about the delay in the financing for the now-$145 million Broadway at Center project, I decided to look at back an earlier version of that project rolled out by Titan Development and Investments in 2013.

Here's an article I filed on May 31, 2013 with an assist from Managing Editor Jay Furst. The rendering is of the version of Broadway at Center introduced at Titan's press conference:

Just a week after Mayo's Destination Medical Center plan was approved by the state, a Rochester developer announced plans today for a 25-story tower at the corner of South Broadway and East Center Street.

6a00d83451cc8269e2019102c4aed3970c-800wiThe Broadway at Center mixed-use project, proposed by Andy Chafoulias' Titan Development and Investments, would have about 30,000 square feet of Class A office space, a 150-room four-star hotel, 150 market-rent apartments, a "high-end grocery" and a Minnesota-branded steakhouse, among other attractions.

The announcement was made at a news conference this morning at Titan's offices in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center. Chafoulias didn't attend; the announcement was made by John Beltz, vice president of brand revenue development.

Titan is "poised for some very significant growth and contributions to Rochester," Beltz said, citing the company's planned restaurant and entertainment complex three blocks south at the C.O. Brown building site and a seniors apartment project further north on Broadway.

No cost estimate was provided for the Broadway at Center tower, and Beltz said the tower could go higher as planning proceeds -- possibly topping the Broadway Residences and Suites tower next door, which is the tallest building in Rochester and southern Minnesota. As planned, the building would have about 300,000 square feet of space and would be connected to the skyway system and a planned city parking ramp on the block.

The new building would be on the northwest corner of the block bounded by South Broadway, East Center Street, First Street Southeast and First Avenue Southeast. The Broadway Residence and Suites tower is on the southwest corner, and the new project would be on the current site of CJ's Midtown Lounge, Jakobson Management Co. and Ginny's Fine Fabrics.

The goal is to have a "hole in the ground" and construction underway next year, Beltz said. He declined to identify the hotel, restaurant and retail tenants who are in discussions with Titan but said in a news release that they're "finalizing negotiations with several recognizable Minnesota brands."

Rochester's lack of a top-tier hotel brand was often cited during the DMC legislative process as something the city needs to attract national and international medical visitors.

The announcement signals Andy Chafoulias taking the wheel of a project envisioned by his father, Rochester developer Gus Chafoulias, in 2007. That proposal was for a two-tower mixed-use project with retail, apartments and office space as well as possible space for University of Minnesota Rochester.

As with the previous version, Rochester architect Hal Henderson of HGA Architects and Engineers would direct the project design. Darren Schlapkohl, Titan vice president of development and construction management, said the project has "been in design for some time and continues to evolve."

Mayo's DMC initiative, which was announced in January and won legislative approval less than two weeks ago, is "an excellent addition to the vision" for Rochester, Beltz said, but Henderson said the Broadway at Center project has been at an advanced stage for at least six months.

July 06, 2016

Bowman's to build a new Rochester facility

To unlock its potential, a Rochester company is planning to build a new facility to house its growing business.

06072016bowmanplansBowman's Door Solutions has submitted plans to the city to build a 15,600-square-foot facility at 1800 14th St. NW. The 2.3 acre parcel is on the open lot next to the Colonial Lanes bowling alley.

Controller Seth Brown explained the new facility will house Bowman's different businesses under one new umbrella company — BDS Contract Door & Hardware Co.

"We're opening an entirely new company," he said.

The new BDS facility will house the well-known Bowman's Safe and Lock locksmith business as well as a wholesale door equipment distributor operation and the commercial subcontractor arm of the company. The distributor part of the business sells equipment to other subcontractors, while the BDS subcontract teams bid on projects such as installing doors at schools or hotels.

The hope is to break ground on the site yet this summer and have it ready to open in early 2017. One big issue the new building will solve is warehouse storage.

"We're out of room where we're at," said Brown of Bowman's current home at 1219 Seventh St. NW. 

The entire operation has 16 employees now, though that number is expected to grow after BDS settles into the future facility.

When looking for a place to build, they wanted to be near its longtime base on Seventh Street, so the spot by Colonial Lanes was a good fit. The location also will make BDS visible to drivers on US 52.

"No one is going to go through Rochester without seeing our building, one way or another," he said. 

 

July 01, 2016

Charlie's Eatery to move in with Elks

After decades in the shadow of Saint Marys Hospital on Rochester's Second Street, Charlie's Eatery & Pub is heading north this fall.

ImgresCharlie Brannon, who has owned the popular bar and grill since 1987, says he is signing a lease to take over space in the Elks Lodge No. 1091 at 1652 U.S. 52 North in the Hillcrest Shopping Center.

The plan is for Charlie's Eatery & Pub to move into the space currently occupied by Wong's Café as well as the Elks bar and dining room area. Wong's is moving out on July 27.

The Elks will retain use of the large space the service club uses on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays for popular bingo games. 

Part of the forces driving this change is the membership and financial challenges that classic service clubs, such as the Elks, are facing these days. This deal allowed the Rochester lodge to sign a new five-year lease with the owners of the Hillcrest Shopping Center, according to the Elks latest newsletter.

Ec30b3d1-04ee-4337-ae9b-d8ce141f967c_d"This was a very tough decision as they (Wong's Café) have been a very wonderful and loyal tenant, but our Lodge would cease to exist if we didn’t make changes immediately to cover the costs of our building," wrote current Exalted Ruler Jim Holman in a letter to the lodge.

While the lodge will not control the bar as in the past, Brannon plans to offer discounts and specials for Elk members.

"I've been an Elk member for 25 years. The lodge is important to me," Brannon said. "We'll still take care of them. With the larger kitchen space, I think we'll be able to expand our menu some there."

After Wong's moves out, that will clear the way for renovation for the new Charlie's.

Brannon says he needs to be out of the Brentwood on 2nd Hotel at 1406 Second St. SW by the end of August. The hotel is slated to be demolished to make way for a proposed $100 million,13-story development. It's unclear if other commercial tenants such as City Market, A Shared Smile and the Healing Touch Spa also will be leaving then.

Bingo is proving to be a bright spot for the Elks in the midst of difficult times. The lodge has hosted charitable bingo games in its previous Rochester home, but they stopped when the Elks moved into Hillcrest in 2006. Then in 2014, the Rochester Senior Center moved its Flamingo Bingo operation into the Elks lodge. 

The Senior Center closed up shop in December 2014, but the Elks launched their own bingo hall last summer. It has proven to be popular and has helped stabilize the lodge's finances.

 

June 30, 2016

Rochester med data firm expands focus, changes name

A Rochester medical analytics firm is expanding its reach with new products and a new name.

Transfuse Solutions Inc., known for analytical software focuses on blood transfusions, recently changed its name to Apri Health Inc., said co-founder and retired Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Mark Ereth.

"Since we're expanding far beyond blood, we thought it was appropriate for a name change," he said this week.

Ereth and Jamison Feramisco founded Transfuse in 2013 in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator in downtown Rochester. It launched with data tools to evaluate the necessity of blood transfusions. Ereth said nearly half of transfusions are unnecessary and just add to the cost of health care.

Apri-health-small-270In the past months, the firm has looked beyond transfusions to introduce new data products to analyze lab tests, diagnostic radiology and overall cost of care.

Apri, which has 12 to 17 employees, works directly with hospitals and small to medium health-care systems.

"A third of every health-care dollar is spent on overutilization and waste," Ereth said. "That's almost a trillion dollars a year. We're tackling that over utilization that doesn't provide patient benefits and that only costs the health-care system dollars."

His firm's data analysis is aimed at finding and eliminating that waste.

"The bottom line is patients get better care with less intrusive treatment and hospitals spend less on unnecessary activity. That all drives better value for patients," he said.

While Apri has employees in Silicon Valley and Dallas, Texas, the firm is rooted in Rochester. Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. helped launch it in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center.

The firm licenses some intellectual property from Mayo Clinic for its educational software, though its core analytical systems were developed by Apri.

It also works with another Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator tenant, Ambient Clinical Analytics. Ambient has a similar technical portfolio of data products focused on emergency and intensive care treatment.

It is led by CEO Al Berning, who previously led Pemstar, Hardcore Computing and other Rochester companies. Drew Flaada, a former RochesterIBM executive, serves as chief technology officer.

June 29, 2016

Mayo Clinic tech doesn't fare well in Celyad/Cardio3 study

Sometimes lost opportunities are actually positive things. 
 
The City of Rochester really wanted rock star Belgium biotech Celyad/ Cardio3 to build a manufacturing facility here to handle the Mayo Clinic-created C-Cure stem cell cardiac treatment.
 
CelyadThat fell apart, when Celyad/Cardio3 pulled out of its plan to take over the fifth floor of the Minnesota Buiobusiness Center.
 
However, this week that looks like a good thing. Rochester make have ducked being stuck with a half built facility after the results of the latest study of C-Cure.
 
A Chart 1 Phase 3 study found that no difference between patients treated with the C-Cure and those given a placebo.
 
Here's how an article on the Seeking Alpha investment news site described the situation:
 

The failure of a pivotal trial of its heart failure cell therapy C-Cure, erased 38% from the Belgian company’s valuation this afternoon, an outcome that will make its search for a partner considerably harder.

Indeed, without a partner the project is effectively dead, as Celyad confirmed today that it would not conduct further clinical work alone.

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The Chart-1 phase III study failed to show this: it recruited 271 patients with chronic advanced symptomatic heart failure, and compared C-Cure against sham treatment. The primary endpoint was a composite of mortality, morbidity, quality of life, six-minute-walk test and left ventricular structure and function at 39 weeks, and on this measure C-Cure patients failed to show any difference versus placebo.

 
That must be pretty disappointing after nine years of promising results.
 
 Celyad/Cardio3 licensed stem-cell research by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar in 2007. It was called Cardio3 Biosciences back then. They have collaborated for years on the cardiopoiesis technology the company uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue. Mayo Clinic owned 2.69 percent of Celyad as of March 3, 2015.
 
However, Celayd bought an NKR-T cell platform from Celdara Medical in 2015. It appeared that the company very quickly turned away from C-Cure to focus on the new area. That is looking like the saving grace for Celyad today.
 

 All of which would have been disastrous if not for the presence of its fledgling immuno-oncology pipeline, which no doubt prevented an even bigger share price collapse.

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Further data updates are expected in the coming months, and indeed this afternoon Celyad’s chief executive, Christian Homsy, ended a conference call discussing the C-Cure results by flagging approaching good news in oncology. Given the relatively small amount paid to access this technology and the huge hopes for the adoptive T-cell space, investors could indeed soon forget the C-Cure failure.