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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 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.

---------

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 21, 2016

Macken starts construction on Byron expansion

After 107 years of being based solely in the Med City, the Macken family is adding its first funeral home outside of Rochester.

The Mackens, who own Rochester's Macken Funeral Home, are investing more than $2 million to build a new full-service facility in Byron to be called Byron Funeral Home and Cremation Services. Work started this week on the 8,000-square-foot building at 1620 Voll Drive NW at the intersection of U.S.14 West and 19th Avenue.

It will offer full funeral and visitation services as well as on-site cremation.

Rochester-MN-FuneralHome-1A public groundbreaking ceremony involving the Macken family and local leaders is scheduled for Thursday morning at the construction site. Mortician Peter Macken estimates the new facility could be completed and ready for use by October or November.

"We've been toying with this for years," he said. "We're really excited about this. Byron doesn't have a funeral home. We think Byron has a bright future and we'd like to be part of that."

Jay Czeczok, a longtime Macken employee and Byron resident, will manage the Byron Funeral Home when it opens. He will be supported by a team of on-site and Rochester employees.

Pete Macken says the family is pleased to have Weis Construction, CRW Architecture & Design Group Inc. and many other local sub-contractors involved in the project.

This expansion to Byron is the latest milestone in the funeral home's history.

Dan Macken launched what would become Macken Funeral Homes in Rochester in 1909. It now is led by the founder's grandsons, Tim and Dan Macken. Peter Macken is Tim Macken's son and the fourth generation of the family to work in the business.

One of the Mackens last expansions was in 2010, when it built a large chapel to add to its longtime Rochester campus at 1105 12th St. SE.

 

June 16, 2016

Rochester music school to expand

A local music school has really struck a chord in Rochester.

Ryan Utterback launched Pure Rock Studios in his home in 2012. When it swelled beyond that space, he moved it into a 2,500-square-foot building at 515 Rocky Creek Drive NE.

13417510_1017403615047508_8141035925918801272_nNow that he and his teachers are working with 250 to 270 students of all ages each week, the school needs even more space. That means more than doubling the size of the school to add a new wing for for the drum classes and a stage performance area as well as renovating the existing building.

"I knew it would get here, but it just has grown much faster than I anticipated," said Utterbeck. "That speaks volumes about our instructors and the curriculum that's really just built around a fun, hands on way to learn music."

He hopes work on the 3,000-square-foot expansion will start by mid-July, with the goal of opening the new wing by September.

Pure Rock has 14 instructors teaching group and one-on-one classes in guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano and vocal. Plus Utterbeck recently added banjo, mandolin and ukulele classes because of the growing popularity of those instruments.

The students range from youth to adults, with about 65 percent being younger than 18 years old.

Pure Roch's focus on performance has spurred the creation of many new bands formed by the students. Utterbeck also has his students perform regularly at local venues such as Thursday on First and Third and the Wicked Moose Bar & Grill.

"Music is a lifelong gift you can share with people," he said.

In fact, the architect and contractor working on the project are both musicians, who occasionally play at Pure Rock. Adam Ferrari of Rochester's 9.Square is the project architect as well as a drummer.

Adam Kramer of Kramer Contracting also is a musician who has played with Utterbeck since high school. Kramer recently launch his new construction business after work with Kraus Anderson Construction Co.

June 14, 2016

Software giant buys Rochester's DoApp

Wade-beaversDoApp Inc., an 8-year-old Rochester media technology firm, was acquired this week by the top software firm in the newspaper industry.

Newscycle Solutions bought DoApp to become part of a new mobile division to add to its services for newspapers and expand into television and radio. Bloomington, Minn.-based Newscycle, which is owned by Vista Equity Partners, works with 92 of the top 100 U.S. newspapers as well as 1,200 companies in 45 countries.

DoApp-logo-square_400x400Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

DoApp co-founder Wade Beavers says Newscycle has worked with DoApp on various projects and the relationship just deepened until this became the logical step. Beavers, now president of Newscycle's mobile division, says this acquisition is good for his company and for Rochester. All 13 employees now have jobs with Newscycle and the division will remain in Rochester in the former DoApp office at 1652 Greenview Drive SW.

"You'll definitely see more employees in Rochester. Newscycle is very strategic on growth," said Beavers. "They plan to stay here."

Beavers co-founded DoApp with Joe Sriver with help from Dave Borrillo in 2008. In the early days, Beavers and Borrillo created early iPhone apps while drinking coffee in Rochester's south Panera eatery. Three DoApp apps were among the first 500 sold on Apple's then-new App Store.

The Newscycle sale marks the third major "exit" for DoApp, since it launched.

In 2012, Raleigh, N.C.-based Axial Exchange acquired mRemedy, which DoApp created with Mayo Clinic. It focused on making patient-focused mobile health-care apps.

DoApp also sold its popular mobile real estate platform to CoreLogic, of Irvine, Calif. in 2014. Borrillo, previously DoApp’s chief operating officer, joined CoreLogic along with all of the DoApp employees working on the real estate app. CoreLogic kept the office in Rochester and it has added several jobs since the acquisition.

“DoApp has led the way for media companies to be the best in their markets with an awesome mobile experience that hasn’t been matched,” said Beavers in Monday's announcement. “Becoming part of the Newscycle family will allow us to create a more complete experience that will take publishers forward and connect them to their audiences across all devices.”

 

June 13, 2016

Future use of ex-postal center still unclear

Almost a year since buying a former Med City mail processing center for $2.11 million, Mayo Clinic still is working out what to do with it.

3939Valleyhigh DriveMayo Clinic purchased the former U.S. Postal Service facility at 3939 Valleyhigh Drive in July 2015. The 72,662-square-foot center closed in January 2015, when mail processing was transferred to the Twin Cities.

When asked this week about its plan, the Mayo Clinic was pretty much the same as when it bought the building.

“No decisions have been made regarding the use of space at 3939 Valleyhigh Drive NW,” wrote Kelley Luckstein of Mayo Clinic Public Affairs on Friday in response to the query about the building.

The 19-year-old building could be adapted for a variety of purposes, such as an industrial laundry, a distribution center or light manufacturing. The center is described as "constructed of pre-stressed concrete and steel frames for high volume load distribution and contains a total of 23 dock doors; 10 overhead doors, 12 semi-truck docks and one grade door."