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23 posts categorized "Lake City news"

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

October 07, 2011

Dancing With The Stars + Minnesota apples?

Cutting-board Two things I never expected to come appear together in a business item - Minnesota apples and the "Dancing With The Stars" TV show.

And yet they will come together on Oct. 16, when dancer Chelsie Hightower will make an appearance at the expo booth of an orchard that grows Minnesota's up and coming apple variety, SweeTango.

Get it? She's a dancer, right? And the tango is a dance, though in this case… uh… it really is an apple.

Chelsie_Hightower The SweeTango name for the University of Minnesota created apple variety came from Dennis Courtier, the president of Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City.

Courtier also spearheaded the creation of the Next Big Thing cooperative of SweeTango growers that govern the growing and marketing of the apples, which are a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar.

Now playing off that name, Hightower is slated to appear at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in Atlanta later this month.

She'll be at the booth of Fowler Farms Of New York. Fowler is one of the 45 members of the Next Big Thing co-op.

I think there needs to be some sort of reality show competition to choose the best apple variety. It could be called "America's Next Top Apple."

Uh… or maybe not. Heh.

November 15, 2010

Restaurant, liquor store chugging into Lake City

A new liquor store and a new restaurant are rolling down the tracks in Lake City.

 A new 5,000-square-foot building is under construction on West Lyon Avenue just feet from the tracks, exactly where Lake City's former railroad depot stood years ago.

When it is completed, The Liquor Depot store will take up half of this nostalgic train station. The RailHouse Grill, a bar and grill Lakecityspecializing in wood-fire brick oven pizzas, will fill the rest of the space.

The Hagedorn family is driving this project with three brothers — Mike, Arnold and Jason Hagedorn — owning The Liquor Depot. It will be managed by Mary Hagedorn.

"We wanted to try something new,"  says Mary of why her family is adding this to their other businesses. "Lake City is in need of more businesses — and new restaurants."

Expect the Liquor Depot to open in late December or early 2011. She estimates the store will have about six on staff, possibly more.

Contractor Doug Wallerich is building the depot as well as developing the RailHouse Grill. Wallerich is working with his wife, Lisa, who is creator of the concept.

"Our goal is to introduce a new atmosphere for dining out," he says. "This is a hobby that is becoming a new career for us."
That hobby started out with the Wallerichs building a brick pizza oven at home two years ago.
"Word about how good the pizzas were started getting out," he says. The parties started growing and people started calling to request pizzas.
So expect brick oven pizzas with fresh ingredients to be the centerpiece of this new railroad-themed casual restaurant. They are shooting for an opening around the end of February.
The Railhouse will seat more than 80 inside with space for 22 more on an outside deck.
"This is a new adventure, says Wallerich, who developed the high-profile Jewel golf community.

July 06, 2010

Fat Willy's revving up

This time around Bill Henderson is in the driver's seat as he gears up a new hot rod of a bar-and-grill in south Rochester.

Henderson, who has managed the Mayo Civic Center concessions for Canadian Honker owner Joe Powers for the past seven years, is cooking up a place of his own called Fat Willy's.

It's being put together in a commercial building across from the Wehrenberg Galaxy Theater in the Shoppes on Maine development along U.S. 63 South.  "This something I've always wanted to do," said Henderson, who is retired from Mayo Clinic and has worked with Powers since he opened the Honker in 1985.

With a hot-rod garage theme, the 3,500-square-foot Fat Willy's is expected to take off from the starting line in September. Look for the menu to feature hamburgers, fries and sandwiches.

"Basically we'll be 092607shoppes onmainelampsjkserving bar food, but we'll also do some unique stuff like shrimp boil specials and broasted chicken," he said. "We just want to make it a fun place where people can sit down, have a beer, good food and shoot the breeze."

092607galaxycinejk Inside it will seat about 125 to 130 people and another 65 to 70 on a large patio that has a fire pit and outdoor bar.

"With that pond and waterfall out there, it is just a heck of a nice atmosphere," Henderson said.

Why the name?

"Everybody has always called me Willy," he said with a chuckle. "

And, well, I'm not the slimmest guy in the world."

Fat Willy's is also an homage to the classic 1941 Willys Coupe, known for its wide rear end. Henderson estimates that he'll have about 15 on staff.

June 17, 2010

Lawsuit bites Pepin Heights, U of M over SweeTango

Remember when I introduced the world to SweeTango, a possible Honeycrisp-killer, Minnesota-made apple variety?

6a00d83451cc8269e20120a5180f3e970b-250wi Now that apple is in the sauce.

Dennis Courtier, owner of the Lake City-based Pepin Heights Orchard, helped spot the apple as an up-and-comer.

Here's some from my article back in August 2009:

To help control the control the quality of his choice variety, SweeTango, Courtier has licensed the fruit, not the tree - just as a drugmaker would license patented research from Mayo Clinic.

And he has formed a cooperative of apple growers across the United States and into Canada called The Next Big Thing.

This group will help control where SweeTango is planted to maintain its quality and possibly help market it.

The method will also return a percentage of the profit from the sale of the fruit to the university, which also developed SweeTango.

In the open market-style of apple variety release, like the one used for Honeycrisp, the university also gets money from the sale of trees and only for a limited amount of years.

While he sees the managed variety method as a good addition to the apple industry's toolbox instead of a replacement to the open release method, U of M apple breeder David Bedford sees the financial advantage for the university.

"Honeycrisp, which is now the most popular apple there is, is now really established. And our patent on it expired last year," he said.

In the United States, at least, the university will not pick any more profits from Honeycrisp. 

Today the Star-Tribune posted an article by Mary Lynn Smith  about a lawsuit filed against the U and Pepin Heights by other apple growers:

6a00d83451cc8269e20120a51808a4970b-250wi More than a dozen apple growers filed a lawsuit in Hennepin District Court on Wednesday over an exclusive licensing agreement that the University of Minnesota and Pepin Heights Orchard have struck over what's being touted as the latest and greatest apple to hit the market — the SweeTango.

The growers expect that the new apple variety created by U researchers will take a big bite out of the apples already on the market.

The growers who filed the suit argue the university's licensing agreement with Pepin Heights severely limits their ability to grow, sell and ultimately profit from the SweeTango, a cross between the Honeycrisp and Zestar varieties.

The growers complain that the deal limits the number of trees other orchards can grow and allows them to sell only directly to consumers or individual stores rather than through the wholesalers who are an essential source of revenue for most orchards. The deal also prevents smaller growers from pooling their crops to fill orders from large retail stores.

"Such restrictive limitations ... result in unfair competition likely to force some of [the growers] out of business and significantly impair efforts of other Minnesota apple growers to remain viable," the suits says.

November 09, 2009

Cabela's sells Lake City-based Wild Wings

1423737068d Here's a deal I missed completely last week.

It seems the outdoors outfitter giant Cabela's sold rustic art specialist Wild Wings at the end of October. Wild Wings is based in Lake City.

I have a call into Wild Wings' president to see if i can flesh this out a bit more.

Here's some from a brief press release that Cabela's quietly slid out about this sale:

1593051005d Cabela's Incorporated announced today the sale of its wildlife-art division, Wild Wings, LLC, to RDE Acquisition Company, LLC, which is owned by a former executive officer of Wild Wings. The closing of the sale took place on Oct. 30, 2009.

Its marketing, product development, sales, administration, picture framing, warehousing and framed-art shipping divisions all are located in Lake City, Minn.

"Wild Wings and its employees have been an integral part of Cabela's success over the last 10 years, and we are proud to have had them as part of our extended family," said Tommy Millner, Chief Executive Officer of Cabela's.

Cabela's will continue to sell Wild Wings products through its retail stores, catalogs and Web site.

August 24, 2009

Is the "Honeycrisp killer" apple ripening?

This is some from one of the apple stories I have in today's paper. This is a juicy deal, so make sure you have a napkin handy. Heh.


Ev4zdbq5mhemx8824200991525 “The best apple I’ve ever eaten in my life.”

That’s a strong statement from Dennis Courtier, a self-described “apple geek” and the president of Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City.

Is he talking about Honeycrisp, the wildly popular apple created by the University of Minnesota and now the official state apple?


“It is definitely better than Honeycrisp,” said Courtier, munching on a slice of apple while standing among rows of trees just reaching maturity.

Despite heavily marketing and growing Honeycrisp himself for many years, he is preparing what he believes is a new contender for the top spot on the apple tree, a “Honeycrisp killer,” if you will.

The name of this hardcore up-and-comer? SweeTango.

Don’t despair, Honeycrisp fans. With Honeycrisp being grown on about 6 million trees, it will be around for a long time. 

Being planted in such profusion is part of the reason Honeycrisp might be taken down a notch or two. Described as “a bit fussy” and “very site-sensitive” by the U of M’s research pomologist (apple breeder) David Bedford, it must be planted in a cold climate to produce the best-tasting fruit.


As its popularity grew, the gigantic West Coast apple growers decided they should plant the Minnesota upstart, in a big way. 

That has resulted in what Courtier and Bedford see as a steady deterioration of the overall quality of the Honeycrisp apples rolling onto the market. 

A bad apple or two can spoil more than the bunch. It can ruin a variety’s reputation, they say.

Honeycrisp trees grown in cold climates, such as the orchards in Minnesota, still produce quality fruit.

Looking for the next hot apple variety, Courtier turned to the U of M and discovered SweeTango.

With only a test number and no name, the early trees grew in Pepin Heights’ research and development plot. Soon the apple’s taste, texture and site flexibility marked the nameless apple as one to watch.

Courtier decided to plant the new variety in larger numbers as well as licensing the fruit with a name that he created himself.

This apple season, which is just starting (Pepin Heights’ retail store opened last week), will mark SweeTango’s debut.  

Don’t expect to buy bushels. Only a small number will be available. Look for production to grow 20 percent to 40 percent a year with “plenty” of SweeTango being available in 2011.

Does Bedford, who often tastes up to 500 to 600 apple a day, agree with Courtier’s assessment of SweeTango?

“It might not be a Honeycrisp killer, but it is a competitor. It is the only apple that holds its own in a blind taste test against Honeycrisp,” he said. “I’d say they are one and two of the best-tasting apples. It is just that, depending on the day, I’m just not sure which is one and which is two.”

August 18, 2009

Fruity fun starting with A for apples

081809apples I got a great education on the core of the apple industry this morning.

Last week it was a beauty salon and this week I'm among the fruit that Newton, William Tell and that vagrant Johnny Appleseed made famous.

And this won't be a simple what does the harvest look like this year story. 

Southeastern Minnesota has some real hard core innovation growing and it could be a real big change in the next few years. 

Tastes change. You can't compare apples to apples. 

Keep an eye on your fruit basket. The next big thing might be on the way.

Watch for the Apple Confidential package soon.

April 23, 2009

Roch. Lumber closed Lake City shop

AA048888 Been hearing some about this off and on, but I have confirmed that Rochester Lumber closed its location in Lake City that was under the name Builders Choice.

No details yet, but it closed and I think it happened last week.

March 23, 2009

Lake City inventor lends a hand to others

Doing chores like mopping, shoveling snow, raking and washing dishes is not a treat for most people.


But Sue Seeger smiles when she gets a chance to rake or mop.

“I don’t mind it at all. For me, it is getting back to living,” she says.

She survived a stroke 16 years ago that left her right arm and right leg partially paralyzed. Those changes left her unable to do many things –- work or play.

That is until three years ago when she went to local inventor Mike Duncan of Lake City to see if he could make her something to help her play golf. He came up with a device to strap to her arm with a pocket to hold a golf club.

It wasn’t long before she was hitting a golf ball about 100 yards down the middle of the fairway and playing a few holes with her husband.

While he had done what Seeger wanted, Duncan was not finished. The creator of three other inventions -– the Buddy Caddy, the Cooler Jacket and the Easypar golf GPS system –- he started to think about other uses for his adjustable club holder.

That lead to an improved version of what he now calls Lend-A-Hand, which can be used in a variety of ways by different people with needs similar to Seeger’s. 

Made of durable ballistic nylon, it can be used on a person’s left or right side. It comes with five sizes of arm straps with tabs that allow for people to use their teeth to tighten them.

By the end of the month he hopes to have a manufacturer chosen with the goal of having the first of the patent pending product running off the assembly line by May.

It is expected to cost less than $100.

Excitement about Lend-A-Hand reaches far beyond Lake City. Duncan and Seeger recently traveled to Savannah, Ga., to present early models to D.J. and Kenny Gregory, who both have cerebral palsy. 

D.J., 31, recently became well-known for walking every golf hole played in the PGA’s 2008 tour. He accomplished that feat while being limited in his walking. He uses a cane to get around.


When Duncan saw an ESPN report about Gregory he called the family to talk about Lend-A-Hand. Don Gregory, D.J.’s father, was very interested for both D.J. and his older son, Kenny. Kenny, who is 37, does not have full use of one of his arms.

“When you see somebody put it on and enable them to do things… some of these things that we take for granted, it gets you excited as well, especially as a parent,” said Gregory about watching his sons use it. “I can see it helping a ton of people. There are so many people that this can help and change their world.”