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9 posts from January 2013

January 24, 2013

FTC OKs 'early termination' of Hormel/ Skippy deal

It looks like the Hormel folks in Spamtown USA might be able start spreading the peanut butter goodness in the near future.

TerminationRemember the deal where Austin-based Hormel made a deal with Unilever to buy the Skippy peanut butter brand for $700 million?

Well, the Federal Trade Commission granted Hormel's request for "early termination" this week. In case, like myself, you aren't sure what 'early termination' means, here's what that means:

Any person filing an HSR form may request that the waiting period be terminated before the statutory period expires. Such a request for "early termination" will be granted only after compliance with the rules and if both the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division have completed their review and determined not to take any enforcement action during the waiting period. In some instances, after a Request for Additional Information and Documentary Material has been issued, the investigating agency will determine that no further action is necessary and terminate the waiting period before full compliance with the Second Request is made.

So it sounds like a good thing. The deal has been given the green light to speed ahead.

Can the new peanut butter favored Spam be far away? Heh.

January 21, 2013

Crenlo laying off 17 workers

Crenlo, which employs more than 600 workers at two locations in Rochester, has announced the imminent layoff of 17 hourly employees, according to news reports.

Office-buildingCrenlo's last major layoff was in 2009, when it laid off 193 employees during a rough fiscal year. The company recalled more than 140 of the laid-off workers, though about 30 were later laid off again.

Crenlo, which has two plants in Rochester, is a manufacturer of steel frame cab enclosures and rollover structures for equipment in the construction, agriculture, and commercial equipment markets. It also produces a line of electronic equipment enclosures.

The company was founded in Rochester in 1951. It is owned by International Equipment Solutions, an affiliate of KPS Capital Partners of New York City. That is the second owner since its local owners sold the company to an Illinois company, Dover Corp., in 1999.

January 20, 2013

Spa spin-off is open after extreme makeover

Essence Med Spa, a spin-off of the original Essence Skin Clinic, is open for business in downtown Rochester at 23 Second St. S.W. in the former Odd Fellows building.

01-20-13essencemed1While construction crews are still putting the final finishing touches on the massive renovation project, owner Jennifer Sanneman opened the new Essence last week at corner of Second Street and First Avenue S.W.That's the spot by the legendary Eagle Drug Store, where Think Mutual Savings Bank used to have a branch.

Essence offers services such as permanent cosmetics, laser hair removal, chemical peels, liposuction, one-hour "face lifts," tattoo removal, Botox and other skin-related treatments.

Though it is only few blocks away from the first Essence, this location will allow Sanneman and her staff to better serve Mayo Clinic employees and patients as well as others who work downtown, she says.
 The plan is to focus on less invasive services, such as Botox, filler, facials and massages at the Med Spa. The more intensive and time-consuming procedures, like liposuction and skin re-surfacing, will be the emphasis at the original Broadway clinic.

During an earlier interview, she said, "It's just better to have two. We really love this space."

Rochester man steps up with new shoe company

Here's some from a piece I wrote about an interesting project based here in Rochester. A designer is launching his own men's shoe company from a northwest Rochester townhouse.

And he is forgoing China or any other international manufacturing. And all of the source materials - leather, shoelacers and whatnot - originate in the U.S.

One last note, his fiancee's name is Krisa Ryan. I mucked up the spelling in print. Sorry about that.

Jorge Gomez wants people to try walking in his shoes. Literally.

In a small southwest Rochester townhouse that he shares with his fiancée, Gomez's new men's shoe company — Well Bred — is taking its first steps.

And he's following a path that's rare these days. The young designer's creations are being made solely in this country, using only materials from the U.S.

50fa4452d4462.image"I wanted to make a product made in the U.S. that I could be proud to wear," he says.

Gomez left a career designing cars to step into the world of shoes. But why shoes?

"They are the most functional piece of clothing in a person's wardrobe," Gomez says.

When he ended up at a New York shoe design firm, Gomez worked to learn all he could about making shoes. Part of that education included traveling through China to tour factories.

What he found was not pretty. "Very unhappy" workers making one particular stitch all day long as hundreds of thousands of shoes rolled by on a conveyor belt.

"I saw horrible, dirty conditions," he says.

That's what drove him to have his shoes crafted in the U.S., despite the higher cost. Designing his contemporary menswear in his Rochester home office was the easy part. The most difficult and time-consuming part of it all has been lining up a U.S. manufacturer.

Eventually, he found a factory in California with a dedicated team of artisans. Gomez found a source for American leather in Illinois. But finding U.S.-made shoelaces was a challenge, since only two firms still make them.

50fa4463c2de4.imageNow he has actual samples of five styles of shoes, his re-interpretations of classics like oxfords, wingtip brogues and everyday boots.

Gomez says his shoes are very versatile. His hope is that men can wear them when they need to look professional as well as at more casual, off-hours times. They will cost between $395 and $475, which puts him on the mid- to high end of the price ranges for these types of shoes. However, he says his shoes will last and are designed so they can easily be re-soled.

"I was frustrated by the selection of shoes in menswear. I would spend $300 on a pair of beautiful shoes, and they would fall apart within two weeks," Gomez says.

He's traveling to New York this week to show his shoes to potential retailers. The goal is to get around 15 high-end men's boutiques to make orders from the New York show and a Las Vegas event next month.

While the focus is on getting into stores, Well Bred will eventually sell shoes directly through its website. That means he'll need stock on hand in Rochester.

"We'll use the 'little warehouse,' aka the guest bedroom," he says with a chuckle.

Gomez says he probably wouldn't have made it this far without his fiancée, Krisa Ryan. She brought him to Rochester, when she got a job at Mayo Clinic. She was the one who came up with Well Bred as a name to embody a brand that comes from good circumstances.

"I've had my doubts, but she really supported me through it all," he says.

Now everything depends on the reactions of the retail buyers.

"I put everything I've got into it. I think it is a project that I can be proud of, no matter the outcome," Gomez says while looking at one of his shoes.

January 16, 2013

More on St. Peter hospital vs Mayo Clinic

A couple weeks ago, the small St. Peter Times published an interesting front page article about the CEO of the community-owned 17-bed River's Edge Hospital accusing Mayo Clinic of questionable practices and taking her case to the Minnesota Secretary of State for investigation.

Robb Murray of the Mankato Free Press recently did his own interview of the CEO Colleen Spike. An extensive story stemming from that interview ran in the Free-Press today. It lead with an 88-year-old woman saying the Mayo Clinic Health System staff told her River's Edge couldn't do an ultrasound on her.

Here are a few interesting excerpts that I clipped from Murray's article, some that probably warrant follow-up. The full Mankato Free Press article can be found here :

Spike says she told her friend the ultrasound could very well have been performed that day and that they do ultrasounds all the time.

“She said, ‘Colleen, did they lie to me?’” Spike said in an interview this week. “And the answer is yes.”

Size_550x415_River's Edge_logoThat story, and many more, prompted Spike to write a letter to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson requesting an official investigation into Mayo Clinic Health System. She wants Swanson to look into allegations of MCHS staff falsely telling patients the St. Peter hospital was full, or telling patients that River’s Edge staff couldn’t do certain procedures such as ultrasounds, or weren’t certified to carry out certain tests such as mammograms and echocardiograms.


 Mayo Clinic Health System denies all allegations. They say they never made false claims about River’s Edge.


Spike said she understands that health care is a business. And she concedes that each example, on its own, can be chalked up to honest mistakes or sloppiness.

But after collecting example after example of similar “mistakes,” she says, she’s convinced they aren’t mistakes at all but are the manifestation of a concerted effort by Mayo Clinic Health System to crush the competition.

Spike, who has been in St. Peter for 15 years and in health care for 40, said the relationship between St. Peter’s hospital and Mayo had for years been a good one. She says it soured a few years ago when a Mayo executive told her flat out its plans.

“We had refused to become part of Mayo,” Spike said. “And he said ‘We will take you down.’”


“When I put my signature on that letter, my heart was pounding. We are a 17-bed hospital taking Mayo Clinic Health System to task,” she said. “I knew that organization when it was good. It does good things, it does wonderful things for health care. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t go astray. And it has gone astray.”

January 13, 2013

Crossroads vs Wild Wings case could be nearing conclusion

After more than a year in legal limbo, the final fate of a plan to build a second Buffalo Wild Wings in Rochester could possibly be officially resolved in the next few months.

On Thursday morning, the Minnesota Court of Appeals is slated to hear the dispute between the owners of the Crossroads Shopping Center and BWW owner Graf Enterprises and as well as the City of Rochester.

6a00d83451cc8269e20167682ff83d970b-800wiThe Crossroads owners, Bob Meek and Vic Scott, are once again taking their objections to a higher court. They object to Tom Graf's development plan to build a 7,000-square-foot sports bar and eatery in front of the shopping center.

This all started when Graf purchased Pannekoeken Huis restaurant and then demolished it in September 2011 to clear space to build a south side version of his very popular, north Rochester Buffalo Wings sports bar.

He submitted a building plan to the city, which approved the project in December 2011. The Crossroads folks say the plan does not actually meet the city's requirements and should never have been OKed as it is.

The approved plan calls for 55 spaces — 35 on Graf's plot of land and 20 spaces in the surrounding Crossroads parking lot. The mall owners contend that that the 20 parking spaces on their property could limit future expansion plans. They say they would welcome the Buffalo Wild Wings, if all of the parking was restricted to land owned by Graf.

Meek and Scott first took their objections to the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals. When the board ruled in favor of the Graf project, Crossroads appealed to the Rochester City Council. The council backed the zoning board's decision.

Next the mall owners filed the lawsuit against Graf and the city of Rochester to appeal the council's ruling. In June, Olmsted County Judge Nancy Buytendorp dismissed the lawsuit saying, "Crossroads has no justifiable controversy to pursue this lawsuit against the city of Rochester or Graf…"

Crossroads responded by filing for an appeal of Buytendorp's ruling claiming she applied the wrong standard of judgment to the case.

As the case has been batted around courtrooms by attorneys, Graf has repeatedly said that no matter how case is finally resolved, he still plans to build a BWW on his land in front of Crossroads.

If he loses, he'll adjust the plans to meet the rules. If he wins definitively, then Graf will turn Weis Builders loose to start work on the square of dirt surrounded by Crossroads pavement  and in the shadow of "Coming Soon" sign.

On Thursday, a panel of three judges in St. Paul will give both sides 15 minutes each to make their case. Graf's attorney and the City of Rochester's attorney will split their side's 15 minutes.

The appeals court will have up to 90 days to issue a ruling on whether Judge Buytendorp's erred in her judgment in favor of Graf and the city.

One possible course of action that could stretch out this case even more would be a ruling that sends the case back to Olmsted County to be decided by a jury trial.

Even if that doesn't happen, it could still be a while before Graf's plan to build moves ahead.

January 10, 2013

S.E. Minn. is a pretty inventive area

Wrote the latest version of the annual IBM leads all other companies with U.S. patents story for today's paper.

I always enjoy the change to chat with some of IBM's master inventors and look at their patents. I often don't understand much, but I enjoy it. Heh.

This year I decided to see how many patents issued in 2012 included residents from area cities. I found some interesting stuff, including the fact a group of guys from Hormel in Austin were issued a new patent on a bacon bits making process on Christmas Day.

I hadn't look at these community numbers, since I wrote a big package in early 2010, where I determined that Rochester was the most inventive city inMinnesota and probably the U.S. (per 100,000 residents).

It is interesting to note that Rochester people had 488 patents issued to them in 2009, so the numbers have gone up considerably since then. I may need to take a run at this story again.


This is a breakdown of how many patents issued in 2012 included at least one inventor from these southeastern Minnesota cities:

• Rochester — 652 patents

• Byron — 42 patents.
• Stewartville — 10 patents

• Austin — 75 patents

• Mantorville — 27 patents

• Zumbrota — 12 patents

• Pine Island — 36 patents

• Dodge Center — 10 patents

• Lewiston — 14 patents

• Oronoco — 38 patents

January 03, 2013

New sandwich chain to fire up in Rochester

After years of trying to fire up a Med City location, plans for a new Potbelly Sandwich Shop are heating up in downtown Rochester.

A group of local owners have signed a deal to open a Potbelly franchise — the first in southeastern Minnesota — in the 318 Commons building on First Avenue Southwest.

194896_416312508412371_1535335892_oThat'll put it in the same complex with hundreds of University of Minnesota Rochester students, The Loop bar and grill and the latest Eastwood Bank branch.

Potbelly, known for its toasted sandwiches and cast-iron potbelly stoves, has been looking to spark a franchise here since at least 2010. Fans have been vocal in their appeals for a local Potbelly.

In addition to warm sandwiches, Potbelly serves up salads, soups and hand-dipped milkshakes.

Owners Kirk and Kim Gordon are spearheading the project, along with partners John and Sandy Rogness and Bill and Erin Nystrom.

The decision to sign on for a Potbelly franchise was an easy one for the Gordons.

“We loved Potbelly when we lived in Chicago, and we’ve been hoping ever since that Rochester would be added to the Potbelly family," Kim Gordon said.  "We got tired of waiting and decided, ‘Let’s bring it here ourselves.’”

There's no target opening date yet, but look for construction of the new sidewalk level eatery to kickoff very soon. The chain's namesake stove commemorates how the first shop started as an antique store then evolved into an eatery. Expect customized woodwork within.

Potbelly typically hires about 20 to 30 people to staff a shop.

It'll be interesting to see how this new player in Rochester's already meaty sandwich market carves out its own niche. The Med City already sports Jimmy John's, Subway, Quizno's, Cousin's and local deli-style places like Salad Brothers, City Market, Nelson Cheese and others

In 2010, Potbelly's franchise manager was confident that a shop was destined for Rochester.

"These are definitely not cookie cutter shops. We want to be part of a community," Mike Walters said back then. "We want to be a neighborhood sandwich shop."

January 01, 2013

DSW to step up and open Rochester store

It's a shoe-in.

A popular national retailer is following its feet to the Med City with plans to open a new store here in the fall.

Look for DSW, also known as the Designer Shoe Warehouse, to stroll into this market in the fall, possibly by September. The shoe chain, based in Columbus, Ohio, is following in the footsteps … or maybe in the wake … of Old Navy.
Old navy
In November 2011, Old Navy sailed out of its 22,000-square-foot store at 50 25th St. S.E. between Bed Bath and Beyond and Michael's craft store. It moved farther south to a new spot nestled between Dick's Sporting Goods and Maurice's in the Shoppes on Maine retail cluster.

That left a big gap in the Broadway Commons shops area, and it stayed empty throughout 2012. Now, DSW has signed up to fill the "shoes" that Old Navy left behind.

"Our stores have had a huge positive reaction in Minnesota," says Christina Cheng, DSW's director of investor relations. "We are always looking for areas where we can expand our market share."

In the past few years, the retailer found a good fit with its "warehouse cool" style and its passionate approach to selling shoes. That has given DSW the traction it needed to rocket through its competitors from its 2004 spot as the No. 8 seller of adult footwear in the U.S. to No. 2 in 2011, right behind Macy's.

"We've been opening stores aggressively this year," Cheng says. "We opened 39 in 2012, and now we have 365. We're looking to open 25 to 30 more in 2013, one which will be in Rochester."

Of course, that means more retail jobs. DSW typically staffs its warehouse stores with 30 to 40 employees.

It will be interesting to see how DSW fits into the Rochester mix, which already has the big brands of Famous Footwear, Payless Shoe Source and Rogan's Shoes as well as well known local names such as O&B Shoe Stores, Danielle's Shoes and the recent addition TerraLoco.