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14 posts categorized "Alternate fuels"

January 22, 2014

It's hailing taxis in Roch.

Rochester's Yellow Cab rolled out a bunch on new Prius V hybrids Tuesday to much fanfare among local business leaders and Mayo Clinic.

YellowcabpicI trotted out to the first leg of Yellow Cab's Prius tour at Rochester Toyota. Fairly interesting. Here's a link to that article.

I had reported in June that Yellow Cab planned to switch over to hybrids. Back then, Med City Taxi was part of the transportation alliance that bought Yellow Cab. So two of Rochester's three cab companies were under the same corporate umbrella ... for a while.

Best Ride, the updated version of the transportation alliance that rolled out the new cars Tuesday, does not include Med City Taxi owner Tim and Tina Fliehr as before.

That means Rochester truly has three cab companies, Yellow Cab, Med City Taxi and Rochester Taxi, vying for the predicted DMC boom in bodies trying to get around this city.

The websites of the firms seem to put that growing competition on display.

• Yellow Cab -  yellowcabmedcity.com

• Med City Taxi - medcitytaxi.com

• Rochester Taxi - Rochester Taxi seems to only be on Facebook. It bills itself as the "people's taxi company."

Yellow Cab's use of Med City in its web address struck me as interesting and seemingly superfluous.

YellowcabwebsiteAnd then there's Yellow Cab's slogan on its website:

"Yellow Cab, your med-city taxi"

MedcitytaxiHhhmmmm.... sounds familiar. Heh.

As a side note to this little deal, I'd like to point out that my editor despise the use of the phrase Rochtaxi"Med City" to describe Rochester.

Using it in proper names is OK, but saying something like "The Med City is all aflutter with buzz about Mayo Clinic's DMC" is a no-no.

It was probably my overuse of the catchy phrase that caused it to fall out of favor. Sorry about that.

What do you think of Medropolis instead? Heh.

December 23, 2013

Ex-Hostess building sold for $720,000

Here's a real estate sale that has spurred my old cravings for Hostess SWonderbreadstoreno-Balls.

Don't judge me. I just can't resist those artifically colored, marshmallow skinned blobs of sweet, sweet calories. Heh.

Rochester's former Wonder Bread Hostess outlet store building at 406 37th St. N.E. for $720,000 on Dec. 18, according to county property records.

SnballsBuilt in 1990, the building has about 3,500-square-feet of retail space and an about 9,500-square-feet of warehouse space. It closed down, when Hostess imploded at the end of 2012.

I chatted with the new owner this morning and this sale opens the door for a regional business to expand into Rochester. This new name in town could eventually add up to about 10 to 15 new local jobs.

I'll have all of the details in the Heard on the Street column in Tuesday's Post-Bulletin. Just consider me Santa's little helper and the P-B as a present of information that can also be used as gift wrap.

In the meantime, I'd consider it a special gift if anyone out there can tell me if true Hostess Sno-Balls have ever returned to Rochester. If so, where can I find them?
 Thanks.

May 25, 2013

Rochester coffee & tea shop's Kickstarter campaign in final sprint

It looks like Chris Holloway's Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 to finish off his new downtown Rochester coffee house project is kicking it into high gear in the final hours.

Holloway is working on Press – Coffee and Tea Lounge at 315 S. Broadway. It's next to the new Canvas & Chardonnay.

919951_461209513958518_2025146667_oWith about a day left in the campaign, the tally is at almost 14,000. A few more "Benefactor Club" pledges might put him over the top.

His prospective shop is in the middle of a stretch of old classic downtown buildings from the 1800s. Think exposed brick and old hardwood floors.

His hope is to be able to start pouring in early June. It'll stay open at least until 10 p.m., maybe later.

Holloway has lined up Roastery 7, a well-known artisan coffee roaster in Brooklyn Center, Minn., as the pipeline to supply the jolt juice.

63569_450578815021588_1633857665_nHere's an unexpected behind-the-scenes twist: Holloway doesn't drink coffee himself. However, he is a big fan of tea. So he is pretty excited about the recent move of one the area's largest tea importers — Mandala Tea — from Winona to just a few blocks north from him.

"Mandala Tea will provide flavorful loose-leaf tea for all of our teas, including the iced teas," he says. "I didn't want to spare the expense on the coffee or tea. We'll have the best coffee and tea in town."

After the two main drinks, a coffee shop also needs to have food. Holloway is in talks with People's Food Cooperative to provide an array of morning pastries, deli sandwiches and salads for lunch, and desserts for late-night snacks. People's is a future neighbor of Press, building a new grocery store with its own eatery a few blocks to the south. And if the arrangement with People's doesn't work out, Holloway is considering other local options.

He expects to have seating for about 40, plus a few more on a small back patio. Soon he'll start hiring his staff of about 10.

Unlike corporate caffeine chains, the plan is to create a unique atmosphere that invites customers to linger, chat, collaborate or just recharge.

Holloway has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the final $15,000 he needs to get Press open. Backers will receive a wide range of rewards, depending on their level of investment.

Give $10 and you get a decal and your name on the Founders Wall. Give $1,000 and you get free coffee or tea for life. There are many levels of rewards in between.

It won't be the rewards, though, that he believes will convince people to give.

"I have confidence that people will see value in this project. I think they will really want to help make it happen," says Holloway.

May 10, 2013

Collaboration rolling toward Rochester streets

While it isn't street-ready yet, several of Rochester's public transportation businesses are trying to put together an alliance to pool their resources and ultimately improve the experience getting from Point A to Point B in the Med City.

Details are still being hammered out and nothing is finalized yet, but it sounds like it will probably happen.

Roch streetsI chatted with someone involved with deal. He wasn't comfortable being identified yet, but he did offer a few insights of what might be coming down the road.

The businesses involved would retain their individual identities. However, they will join forces to handle needs they have in common, fleet maintenance in particular.

"The alliance wants to ensure a seamless experience for customers by providing a prompt, efficient and more consistent transportation service across all product lines," he said. "A world-class medical center deserves a world-class transportation system and we intend to deliver."

That sounds like a lofty goal that fits well with Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center initiative.

One interesting element is that it involves many types of transportation as well as bringing direct competitors together under the alliance's umbrella.

While these local businesses might not make it all the way to their targeted destinations, the journey itself sounds like one that could improve what happens on Rochester's streets.

I'll keep tracking this one. Stay tuned.

April 25, 2013

Holiday to close the "runt" of SA C-store litter

It looks like the addition of Holiday gas stations to Rochester will mean the subtraction of a current station from the market.

The buzz going around South Broadway is that when Holiday takes ownership of the six SuperAmerica stations in Rochester on May 1, one of them will go dark.

ShowPhoto.aspxOfficials with Bloomington-based Holiday have not responded to inquiries about changes in the Med City. However, there is evidence to support this closing theory. Rochester building permits show that Holiday signs are going up at all of the Super America stations, except the one on South Broadway.

People in the neighborhood around the station say they are hearing the store is closing because it's the smallest in the batch. The 18-year-old Broadway station is 1,900 square feet. By comparison, SA's station on Second Street Southwest is about 1,500 square feet larger.

Of course, having a Kwik Trip station right next to the South Broadway SA probably didn't help its perceived viability.

If that station does go dark, it will be interesting to see what happens next. Holiday does have a history of selling its "surplus real estate," so there's a good chance that lot will go on the market.

For obvious reasons (see previous sentence about Kwik Trip), it will probably not become another gas station.

So what could go there? 

I'd say a coffee shop, small diner or even a fast food place (Dare I say… White Castle?) could be reasonable options for that high traffic area along South Broadway.

Even a bar might work there. Remember, Beer Bellyz is a converted Holiday gas station.

March 25, 2013

Is Holiday taking over Roch.'s SA gas stations? Looks like it

The buzz is that the Med City will have a lot more Holidays in its future, but don't expect any changes to the calendar.
Superamerica_0For the past few weeks, folks in the know have been saying that Bloomington, Minn.-based Holiday Station Stores plans to take over the seven SuperAmerica convenience stores in the near future, possibly by the beginning of May.

One version goes even further and says Holiday plans to build two additional new stations here to bring its total of Rochester sites to nine.

Holiday's head office as well as SA's corporate parent, Northern Tier Energy in Ridgefield, Conn., have not been helpful as I've tried to confirm or disprove this high-octane story, which is getting such good mileage at the pumps.

The only response I've received is this email from Christine Carnicelli of Northern Tier, "As a general policy we do not comment on our business operations so we would prefer not to provide any details on this matter."

Nonetheless, evidence is building that Holiday is indeed gearing up to roll into the Rochester market in a big way.
16491310
Holiday Station Stores Inc. has filed a permit with the city of Rochester to build a station on the open land at the corner of West Circle Drive Northwest and Valleyhigh Road Northwest. That would put it right next to Ford-Metro Glass and across West Circle from Mayo Clinic's Superior Drive Support Center.

With CostCo's move into the area acting as a catalyst to spur other nearby retail projects, that seems to be a pretty good spot to put a station.

A search on Holiday's website for Rochester locations comes up with the single station at the entrance to the Cub Food Plaza at U.S. 14 and 15th Avenue Southeast.

Holiday took over that station in October 2011. Before that change, Holiday had been absent from this market for five years with its last Med City station closing in January 2006. That one was later transformed into the Beer Bellyz bar, along Civic Center Drive Northwest.

While the website lists only one station, Holiday's list of job openings tells a very different story.

Holiday is taking applications for eight Rochester locations. The addresses match the city's seven SuperAmericas and the one active Holiday station.

This shift might mean a change to the calendars after all.

Mark this spring as the start of the "Great Med City Gas War" between Holiday and Rochester's reigning C-store champ, Kwik Trip.

February 21, 2013

Costco = Rainmaker for Roch. development

Bringing businesses into a new development can sometimes be a hard sell.

07262010kwiktripsign19thstreetHowever, once you have a big Costco store sitting in the middle of the property, all of that changes. Businesses seek you out rather than the reverse.

"We're at the cool stage now where we can pick and choose," says Hans Zietlow, of Kwik Trip, who is in charge of the 108-acre commercial development at 19th Street Northwest and West Circle Drive.

While the deals are still in the works and he can't name names yet, Zietlow says Rochester can expect a lot of dirt to be moving this summer.

If I was a betting man, I'd say we'll have four or five construction projects going on out there," he says. "They will all be stand-alone buildings."

Any more hints?

"They all are national names … we should have some pretty cool names," Zietlow says.

I guess I'll need to keep at eye on that quadrant, when the ground thaws and construction season heats up again.

December 25, 2012

Moody's downgrades RPU bond rating

Evidently, not everyone is happy when RPU doesn't raise its utility rate.
Last week Moody's Investors Service downgraded Rochester's electric utility bond rating to Aa3, down from Aa2.
Here's part of the explanation of why RPU's grade went down:

The rating action reflects the lower credit metrics over the last few years, which is at least partly due to the fact that there have been no rate increases in the last few years and none are expected in 2013. There have also been declining sales of off-system power.

GetFileThe rating action also reflects the heavy reliance on one generation or fuel source; namely, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency's (SMMPA, rated A1) 41% ownership of the Sherco 3 coal-fired plant, which remains out of service due to a failure during re-start in November 2011 following a routine shut down for maintenance.

Having said that, the Aa3 rating reflects the benefits of a long-term take and pay contract with SMMPA under which SMMPA has agreed to sell and deliver electric power to Rochester, and Rochester has agreed to take and pay for electric power as needed for the operation of its system up to 216MWs. The contract expires in 2030.

------------------------------

The rating also reflects Rochester's local rate setting authority without state oversight. Rates are set at levels necessary to cover operating and maintenance costs and 120% of debt service. Rochester also benefits from a strong service area economy.

 

On the flip side, Moody's sees a lot of positives at RPU.

*RPU is a well-established enterprise with a long, stable operating history and good liquidity.

 *RPU's service area is economically sound with a highly educated workforce and low unemployment.

 *The likelihood of deregulation in Minnesota is diminished. RPU has exclusive control over its service territory.

 *RPU has local rate-setting autonomy (City Council approval is required), with no state oversight.

 RPU also has a few challenges, according to Moody's.

*RPU's take-and-pay contract with Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA, rated A1) accounts for majority of its supply and limits its overall fuel diversity. There are other sources of power in RPU's owned generation: the 105MW coal-fired Silver Lake Plant (set for decommissioning in late 2015), the 80MW gas-fired Cascade Creek Plant and two hydro units as well as diesel generation for peaking purposes. However, most of the power source comes from the SMMPA contract for 216MWs.

* Although RPU as local rate-setting authority, RPU has not raised rates its rates for several years, at least partly due to concerns about competitiveness. This has resulted in some decline in the credit metrics over the last few years.

*RPU has concentration risk; its top 10 customers represent 35.1% of the total kWh sales in 2011 and 32.2% of revenues in 2011.

*Transmission constraints are forecast for 2014 and beyond, which RPU plans to address through participation in CapX 2020, a regional effort to build transmission lines in Minnesota.

December 17, 2012

Lots of brew news percolating on Broadway

As winter settles over the Med City like a crow onto a familiar roost, new projects brewing on Broadway have people all aflutter.

The buzz centers around a word that fuels much of modern civilization — caffeine.

Details still are dribbling in, but it sounds as if Rochester's cup may soon be warmed up with a new downtown tea house as well as a coffee shop. Given the growth of such places in the past years, this probably doesn't sound too unusual.

CupWhat makes these percolating deals standout is that they don't have a big fancy national brand name attached to them. Don't expect a marketing department or a focus-group approved logo.

If this all pours out as anticipated, Rochester will see locally owned places stir into the mix that competes for the business of area tea and coffee lovers.

A building permit already is filtering through the system for a tea house on North Broadway in downtown. It looks as if this one will be a second serving for a popular Winona-based operation.

The Mandala Tea Center for Wellness, owned by Garret Sorensen and Sarah Crawford, goes directly to China to import its teas. The owners, on their website, explain their reasoning this way: "in order to get the finest teas and to understand the magnitude of the tea culture in the world."

I should have more on this project soon.

Now, I don't know as much about the locally driven coffee project yet, but I believe I'm familiar with the mug behind it.

If my sources aren't loopy from too much java, this deal could be in the works for South Broadway.

This would give the hordes of people who pour into downtown daily another spot to "measure out their lives with coffee spoons." This one still is flying under the radar right now. I hope to know more about this deal soon and how it will be stirred into the Med City mix.

While my cup is overflowing with such potent brew news, I once again should bring out a topic that I served up not long ago.

Teavana, a national purveyor with more than 200 locations in the U.S. and Mexico, is working on a spot in Rochester. A recent building permit showed it setting the table for a place in Apache Mall.

If all this happens as expected, it would add a few new choices for those looking for a warm cup on a cold, blustery Minnesota day.

November 05, 2012

Of hot dogs and hotels

It weighs five tons, is 11 feet tall, is 27 feet long and has four wheels.

What is it? The most famous food-shaped vehicles in history, of course, the Wienermobile. The iconic vehicle that is as recognizable as the Batmobile, Bigfoot or the Mystery Machine is rolling along the Med City's streets yet again.

05012012weinermobileVery early this morning (the Daylight Savings switch had me out a lot later or earlier than usual. Heh.), I spotted massive fiberglass hot dog proudly parked across Second Street Southwest from Saint Marys Hospital.

Even more interesting than the brightly-colored vehicle was the hotel sign at 1211 Second St. S.W.

In a column last week, I teased that a Med City hotel was looking at making a change. That seems to have happened, since the sign over the Oscar Mayer car says Aspen Suites instead of Staybridge Suites.
05012012weinermobile
The 83-suite hotel, along with the Fiksdal Hotel, is owned by Blue Stem Capital of Sioux Fall, S.D., and Glen Fiksdal of Rochester.

I guess I should stop hotdogging and give them a call to find out the details.