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7 posts from March 2012

March 15, 2012

Something fishy in downtown Rochester

Something smells fishy. Literally.

I was sniffing around this week when I noticed some work crews in the former Red Lobster space at Second Street Southwest and Broadway in downtown Rochester.

I started wondering if my (admittedly very large) nose had caught the scent of a potential story.

01112011redlobsterchairsThat street level space in the Rosa Parks Pavilion has been empty since Red Lobster scuttled out of downtown and moved into a newly revamped shell by the Apache Mall last year.

Red Lobster leased the spot from Mayo Clinic, which owns the complex. That lease ran out in March, so the property is now back under the control of Mayo Clinic.

Does that mean another restaurant could be cooking? Or could some Mayo Clinic execs be getting new offices?

The answer was in an unusually informative city building permit. It said that carpet, paneling, ceiling tiles and the Red Lobster bar are all being removed.

"Just removing items for clean-up to get rid of fish odor," the permit says. "Future tenant not defined at this time."

Housing a seafood restaurant for 25 years seems to have added a certain "air" to the spot.

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to keep on fishing.

March 14, 2012

Mayo Clinic Ventures leader leaving for Colorado gig

Here's an interesting tidbit.

7i5h7brkieqo4j716200712528Steve Van Nurden, the chair of Mayo Clinic Ventures, is leaving Mayo and Rochester to take a new position in Aurora, Colo.

As the head of the division that licenses Mayo Clinic research and patents to companies as well as launching self-made start-up firms for the clinic, I've worked with Steve on many stories in the past years about projects like Preventice, Cardio3, Resoundant and EnteroMedics.

I have a call to Mayo and Steve for more info, but here's some from the press release the City of Aurora, Colo.

Following an extensive national search, Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority has named Steve VanNurden as its new President and Chief Executive Officer, beginning in late May. The announcement is made by John M. Shaw, Chair of the FRA Board of Directors, who said: "Steve, a seasoned leader in the life science/bioscience space, comes to us from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota."


He will be working with universities, local economic development agencies, state and local governments, and the bioscience industry to promote the successful development of the 180 acre Colorado Science + Technology Park, which is adjacent to the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

Steve Hogan, Mayor of the City of Aurora and FRA Board member stated, "Steve is the partner we need to fulfill the promise of the bioscience industry park. His working relationships span nationally and internationally, which will be a great advantage for us."

March 12, 2012

JJ's to serve up 3rd Roch. location in ex-Maid Rite Diner

This deal has been in the works for a while. But now it is locked down, signed on the dotted line and ready to roll.

A popular sandwich maker is looking to deliver its third shop to southwest Rochester this summer.
Look for Skip and Tammy Christian to open a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches sometime in June in the Crossroads Plaza, along South Broadway.

"We've been working to get in there for quite a few years," says Skip Christian. "16th and Broadway is one of the busiest intersections in the city."

Unfortunately, it was the recent closing of the Maid Rite Diner at 90 14th St. S.W. that finally opened up a spot in the shopping center. The space is on the soutJimmy-johnscup-lh end of the center, which has a Walgreens as its anchor on the north end.

They say that end spot is attractive for many reasons, but it's the drive-through window that really made the Christians hungry for it.

"That's something we've been trying to get for quite a while," he says. "It'll really make it more convenient for the customers."

The south location will also extend the Jimmy John's "Freaky Fast" delivery range in Rochester. Typically an order in delivered within 15 to 20 minutes of being made.

Exactly how far the delivery area will extend won't be decided until right before the shop opens. A corporate official will come to Rochester and drive the area to see what will work within the Jimmy John's model.

This shop will be exactly the same size as the northwest location, which is at 2986 41st St. N.W. in the Jiffy Lube center. The Christians opened that one in 2009.
Their first shop launched in 2005 in the the Kahler Inn and Suites complex in downtown Rochester.

Jimmy's John's employs about 66 workers in the Med City right now. Christian expects to hire about 25 to 30 more to run the south shop.

With its proximity to Mayo Clinic buildings, the downtown spot is the most heavily staffed shop. About 17 workers are needed to cover the lunch-hour rush, he says.

March 09, 2012

Energy co-op flips switch on new digs

Here's some from my piece on the changes at People's Cooperative:

A local energy provider is ready to flip the switch on a new $9 million facility, along with a new name.

On Friday, People's Cooperative will close its 41-year-old headquarters at 3935 U.S. 14 E. in Rochester.

It will then re-open Monday in the brand-new complex at the edge of Oronoco along U.S. 52. However, the sign out front says People's Energy Cooperative.

"We thought this would be a good time to change our name, so it better reflects what we do," says People's president and CEO, Elaine J. Garry.C0F26C68-3C7C-1F8E-77BB-79FD324E842F

Adding "Energy" to its name is only one part of the rural power cooperative's rebirth.

Walking on new tile through the freshly painted hallways, Garry explained what drove the move and how this new 74,000-square-foot facility will better serve the cooperative's 15,000 members.

"It is state-of-the-art and equipped with up-to-date technology," she said. "It offers us a lot of possibilities."

The new location offers People's financial opportunities with 10 acres of commercially zoned land and a 26 acre-industrial park called Oronoco Crossings. People's is also marketing its complex on U.S. 14 East for sale.

Tim Clawson, who manages economic development for the cooperative, says there has been interest in both areas, particularly from possible convenience stores or gas stations on U.S. 52.

"We're really pleased with the reaction," he says. "There is no convenience store on the right (west) side of the highway from St. Paul all the way to Rochester's 41st Street."

March 05, 2012

Some Mayo Clinic workers not happy with dress code change

Here's some from Jeff Hansel's Pulse on Health column today.

It seems Mayo Clinic is dressing things up a bit by requiring its desk employees to wear more upscale clothing.  Personally, I don't think I've ever been concerned about the clothing of a Mayo worker when I was going there for needed medical care or to refill a prescription. I could be in the minority there.

Anyway, this is kind of an interesting discussion:

Mayo Clinic leaders in Rochester might need to do some fence mending.
It doesn't matter who's right or wrong. Feelings have been hurt.

A recent announcement says about 900 desk employees will be required to get new uniforms, a Mayo spokesman said. Clinical assistants (who perform tasks like helping patients in the restroom) and desk staff will order on credit, switching from scrubs to black pants with light-blue shirts.

A Mayo Q&A says they'll repay up to $400 per worker for the cost of the uniforms over the course of up to two years.

The decision, based on months of planning by a committee, triggered a firestorm of online comments from Mayo workers.

"Mayo is a great place to work … with great wages and benefits," one said on an internal Mayo communication site. "It just seems like none of our opinions matter."

Lack of attention to how directly affected workers feel is a key complaint. There are others. For example, some are frustrated that an out-of-town company ships uniforms from an international supplier. They wonder, why not support local shops?

Commenters nicknamed themselves "LPEs" or low-paid employees, and said they struggle already paycheck-to-paycheck, making new uniform cost a burden.


"I think this is an incredible elitist and insensitive decision…," one commenter wrote.

Rochester's latest eatery closing is...?

Here's the scoop.

032708threethirtyone331jkThe 331 Bar and Grill at 7386 Airport View Drive S.W. in Rochester closed its doors last night and did not re-open today.

The owners Tom and Jimmy Karabatsos told staff last night that they unfortunately needed to close.

They bought the restaurant from developer Andy Chafoulias in 2009.

Chafoulias first started the restaurant under the name of The Hangar, then he sold it in 2006. He bought it back in 2008 and relaunched it as 331.

So will Andy step back in take another swing at running bar and grill in the Rochester Airport Business Park that he created?

I chatted with him this afternoon and asked that very question.

Stay tuned.


March 02, 2012

Byron printer lays off 45

Another round of layoffs in area, though this company does acknowledge cutting the jobs and the impact it has on employees.


Schmidt Printing in Byron announced Thursday that it is cutting 45 jobs in response to market pressures.

118613v2v1"We sincerely regret that this action carries a personal cost for a large number of our employees, many with long service to the company. We will do our best to assist them during this transition" said Schmidt President Craig Monson in a prepared statement.

Schmidt is a web-offset printer owned by North Mankato-based Taylor Corp., a large conglomerate with many printing businesses. Owner Glen Taylor is also the lead owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves professional NBA basketball team.

Monson declined to answer any questions beyond the prepared statement, so it is not known how many employees remain at Schmidt's facility in Byron.

In 2009, Schmidt officials said the company had more than 350 on staff. In March of that year, Schmidt laid off 35 employees. That layoff followed a $5 million equipment investment.