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5513 posts categorized "Local business action"

July 30, 2014

Developer working on new projects in N.W. Roch.

A St. Paul-based developer is looking to follow up its first Med City project with a couple more in the increasingly active northwest quadrant.


TJL Development recently built a new 4,000-square-foot paint store for Sherwin-Williams in south Rochester, in front of the south ShopKo and Menards stores.

Now the firm is working on projects by the Costco complex in northwest Rochester.

"We're hopeful to soon finalize transactions for two free-standing buildings," said Jim Lavalle, principal of TJL Development.

If the deals work out as he hopes, TJL will construct a 2,500-square-foot building to be occupied by a co-branded coffee and food business as well as a 4,000-square-foot store for a national retailer. The developer would own the buildings and lease them to the tenants.

"Rochester is a great place to do business, is what we've found, and we'd like to do more business down there," said Lavalle of why his firm is working in the Med City.

These plans would just add to the flurry of construction already underway in front of Costco and Kwik Trip.

A new McDonald's restaurant is being built there to replace the older one on the U.S. 52 North Frontage Road. Construction also is buzzing along for a 77-room Comfort Inn and Suites and a 109-room Staybridge Suites in the same area.

Discount grocer, Aldi, also recently announced plans to build a 17,000-square-foot store within the same development, at the corner of 22nd Street Northwest and Commerce Drive.

The whole 108-acre area on the northeast corner of West Circle Drive and 19th Street Northwest is being developed by Northwest Investments, the real estate arm of Kwik Trip Inc. For years, Hans Zietlow of the La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip has said that spot is the "key property" on Rochester's west side.

With all of the dirt moving and walls going up, it looks like a lot of people agree with him. 

July 29, 2014

Custom Communications spins off music biz

A 46-year-old Rochester business is spinning off its audio and music business.

Custom Communications Inc., founded by Leigh J. Johnson in his basement in 1968, started in the background or "elevator" music business by providing sound systems and music for stores, restaurants and offices. He soon added security systems to Custom's offerings and that grew to be a major business driver for Johnson's firm. However, sound systems and background music remain an important part of the business.

L-SS8pdq1On Friday, the audio and security components will each follow their own paths under the Custom Communications' umbrella.

Sound and Media Solutions will open its own office in Suite 109 at 3003 43rd St. N.W. under the leadership of Nikki Johnson, Leigh Johnson's daughter. Meanwhile, Custom Alarm will continue to operate at the company's headquarters' at 1661 Greenview Dr. S.W. Melissa Brinkman, Leigh Johnson's other daughter, took over as CEO of Custom Alarm after he retired and began serving as chairman of company's board of directors.

"I'm real excited about it. I think this will better serve our customers," said SMS Managing Director Nikki Johnson. "The sound business is just a different type of business, with different sales people and different installers. This just makes sense."

Sound and Media Solutions sells equipment and services related to music systems as well as drive-through intercoms, public address systems and patient/nurse communications.

In addition to Nikki Johnson, the new SMS office is staffed with six other experienced Custom employees.

After its humble beginnings in Leigh Johnson's basement, Custom Alarm has grown to employ more than 70 people at its Rochester and Winona locations.

July 28, 2014

Mayo plans offices in former restaurant space

Mayo Clinic has decided to put administrative offices in the long-empty former Red Lobster space in downtown Rochester.

The roughly 6,000-square-foot space is on the street level of the 60-year-old Rosa Parks Pavilion building at 195 S. Broadway. Mayo bought the building for $2.37 million in 1997, and Red Lobster leased space there from 1987 until it closed in 2011 and opened in a new building by Apache Mall.
07272014exredlobsterspace
Since Red Lobster left, Mayo Clinic repeatedly has said it was looking at options for the prime downtown location. Even when Mayo Clinic began interior demolition in the former restaurant space in February, the official word was that no plans had been made for the spot.

That changed this week, when clinic officials confirmed their plans.

"We are in the process of converting the space into administrative space that can accommodate individuals and teams from different departments to co-locate for a period of time in order to collaborate on projects," Mayo's Kelley Luckstein said in an email. The space should be ready for staff to move in by November.

Given the clinic's seemingly endless need for space and its use of other nearby street-level spots for offices, the decision was not surprising, but it's disappointing for people who would like to see more street-level stores and restaurants downtown.

"Mayo Clinic did take into consideration retail space, but based on Mayo’s needs, this was the appropriate use of the space at this time," according to the statement emailed by Luckstein.

One critic of the decision is Adam Ferrari, a Rochester architect and an advocate for a more vibrant downtown. "I don't know who in public relations could defend how this is furthering the Destination Medical Center effort, but it's clearly contradictory," he said.

An official with the Rochester Downtown Alliance declined to comment on the change at this time.

While Ferarri was critical of Mayo's plans, he did acknowledge the clinic desperately is looking for office space. "Mayo is simply too hard up for space right now to let any square footage out of their grasp. That's my interpretation," he said.

July 24, 2014

Bremer Bank to acquire Eastwood Bank

St. Paul-based bank Bremer Bank announced Thursday that it's expanding into southeastern Minnesota by acquiring Rochester's Eastwood Bank.

Photo_branch_318This move quickly ramps up Bremer's presence in this area by adding Eastwood's 13 locations. Bremer has 85 branches in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. The nearest branch is in Owatonna, which opened in 2012. It recently broke ground to build a new bank in Eau Claire, Wis.

"This partnership is part of Bremer's overall expansion strategy of entering new markets, making acquisitions and recruiting top talent. We have been working on our expansion initiatives since 2011," said Greg Hilding, Bremer's midwest group president.

The deal is expected to close on Jan. 23, pending regulator approval. Eastwood and Bremer officials declined to discuss the financial terms of the purchase. Once it's approved, all of Eastwood's branches will change over to the Bremer name.

Brad Peters, Bremer's Southeast Minnesota region CEO, will take over the Eastwood Bank operations with Eastwood's current president Paul Tieskoetter reporting directly to Peters.

Acquiring Eastwood extends Bremer's coverage in Minnesota as well as strengthening its position as one of this region's largest financial institutions. Dave Talen, the president of Eastwood bank's holding company, described the deal as being about growth for Bremer.

"It's a great strategic fit and a great geographic fit, really with no overlap," added Hilding.

That lack of overlap with any of Bremer's locations appears to be positive for the future of Eastwood's more than 185 employees. During the next six months, Bremer will study Eastwood to determine if any adjustments are needed. However, dramatic changes don't seem likely.

"We have every intention to continue forward with these locations that Eastwood Bank has built," Hilding said while traveling to Eastwood's branches with Dave Talen to meet the staff. "It's a privalige to take over such a strong legacy. It's an opportunity and a responsibility we intend to uphold."

As of March 2014, Bremer listed assets of $8.8 billion, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). Rochester's Think Mutual Bank had assets of $1.5 billion, Winona's Merchants Bank had $1.39 billion.

Eastwood's roots extend back to 1903 to founding of the First State Bank of Dover. That bank was later acquired by Farmers State Bank in Eyota. In 1979, Farmers State opened a Rochester branch and called it Eastwood. First State, Farmers State and Eastwood were all combined under the name of Eastwood in 1982.

Considering the family's 75 year history with the bank and the community, the Talens say deciding to sell was took a lot of consideration.

"We have carefully considered what is best for our shareholders, customers, communities and employees," stated Eastwood Bank Chair James Talen. "And we believe the decision to become part of the Bremer organization is the right choice for meeting the best interests of all of these groups."

Dave Talen, James' son, echoed that sentiment. "We wanted someone who would carry on what we've built. Bremer is a good cultural fit with Eastwood," he said.

Both James and Dave Talen will remain with the organization through 2015 "to assist with the transition," according to Bremer Bank.

July 22, 2014

Bea's Kahler group reaches beyond Rochester's downtown

The Kahler Hospitality Group, the Rochester company led by Javon Bea, is checking out the hotel market beyond downtown.

15344_b1The local buzz for weeks has been that the Kahler group, which owns four hotels in downtown Rochester, is taking the reins at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center at 1517 16th St. S.W.

While neither the KHG leadership nor Ramada team officially have admitted it, a recent Kahler email about catering changes seems to confirm that the hotels are now linked.

A mass email sent Monday by the Kahler group's new catering director included the Ramada logo among its hotel brands and it specifically pointed out that the Kahler's new policy opening its event spaces to outside caterers does not include the Ramada Hotel.

Chef Pasquale Presa, the Kahler's executive director of food and beverage operations, also includes the Ramada in the list of hotels under his management on his professional LinkedIn page. Local contractors also say that the Kahler group is talking to local builders about contracting for work on the Ramada complex.

The big unanswered question is whether the Kahler Hospitality Group has purchased the hotel from Rochester developers Dan and Terri Penz or if KHG has been contracted just to manage the Ramada facility.

No matter which is correct, the Kahler's involvement with the Ramada signals a major change for both organizations.

The Penzes also own the adjacent T.J. Maxx Shopping Center and Elcor Construction as well as other Rochester properties and businesses. They bought the hotel in January 2002 and changed its brand from Best Western to Ramada in 2004.

In 2011, the Penzes closed their hotel restaurant called Teresa's. That cleared the way for Joe Powers and his Powers Ventures firm to create new convention space within the hotel. At about the same time, Jim Nicholas leased space to open Wildwood Sports Bar in the Ramada complex. It's unclear what kind of impact, if any, the Kahler involvement in the hotel could have on the Powers and Wildwood operations.

On the other end of the deal, the Kahler Hospitality Group is a collection of five unidentified investors who bought the Kahler Grand Hotel, the Kahler Inn & Suites, the Marriott Rochester, the Residence Inn and the Textile Care Services industrial laundry for $230 million in 2012. Javon Bea, of Oronoco, is the well known public face of the organization.

In 2013, the Kahler group hired the Colorado-based Richfield Hospitality to manage the downtown hotels.

July 17, 2014

New plan: Newt's at Crossroads

After years in limbo, a plan to build a restaurant/bar in front of Rochester's Crossroads Shopping Center once again is moving ahead.

However, it won't be the long anticipated Buffalo Wild Wings. Instead, it'll be the latest version of Rochester's iconic eatery, Newt's.

Rochester restaurateurs David and Mark Currie are working on plans to build Newt's South as their ninth local restaurant. Their Creative Cuisine restaurants are the original downtown Newt's, the City Cafe, City Market Deli Downtown, City Market Deli South, the Redwood Room, 300 First, Newt's Express and Newt's North.

The project is in its early stages, so it may be a while before construction starts on the large rectangle of dirt and grass.

"If I could break ground today, I would," said David Currie, who owns and runs Creative Cuisine with his brother. "But I'm going to say it will be in the six-month range before it really gets going."

The sibl07162014bbwsignings are buying the site between the Andy's Liquor store and Home Federal Savings Bank from Tom Graf. Graf originally had hoped to build Rochester's second Buffalo Wild Wings there, but a series of legal disputes over parking eventually quashed that plan. The development plan, approved by the city, called for extending BWW's parking onto Crossroads property to have the required number of spaces.

Parking shouldn't be an issue for the new Newt's project because it will be smaller than Graf's proposed BWW. That means the restaurant and all of the required parking should both fit on the island of land in the Crossroads parking lot.

"I thought the Curries could make the best use of the space with the size of what they want to put on it," said Graf. "At the end of the day, it's a win for the shopping center."

07162014newtssouth1The first generation of Creative Cuisine dates to the 1960s with Jerry Zubay and Mike Currie, the father of Dave and Mark. Building a ninth restaurant will add to an already full plate for the brothers.

"The business is a lot of fun. We both love it and enjoy it. We're blessed to work with a ton of great people. That makes it super enjoyable," said Dave Currie of why they decided to open a new place.

Creative Cuisine employs 141 people. The Curries estimate Newt's South will need 20 to 30 employees.

This will be the first time the Curries have opted to construct a new building rather than adapt and renovate an existing site. They had shopped for a south Rochester spot for about a year before the Crossroads deal worked out.

"Building from the ground up took a lot more thought going into it. We're used to finding a 100-year-old building and then working with it," said David Currie.

They plan to build a restaurant similar in look and size to the quirky Newt's North location, which opened in 2011 inside the Wallin Building at 5231 U.S. 52 Frontage Road N.W.

The genesis for the project dates to 2011, when Graf purchased Tasos Psomas' Pannekoeken Huis restaurant and demolished it to make way for a second Rochester BWW.

Even though Graf decided "it just made sense" to have the Curries build on the site, it doesn't mean he's abandoning his own restaurant plans.

"There will eventually be another Buffalo Wild Wings in Rochester. It will happen. The city's big enough for at least one more," he said.

July 14, 2014

Ex-Pump & Munch to make way for new Caribou Coffee shop

More caffeine is on its way through Rochester's development pipeline.

A long-empty ex-BP Pump & Munch building at 451 16th Ave. N.W. is slated to be cleared away to make room for a new Caribou Coffee shop in northwest Rochester.

16thavepumpandmunchThe 1,804-square-foot stand-alone Caribou Coffee shop is planned for the high-profile spot, which will give the Minnesota coffee company access to both Civic Center Drive Northwest and the increasingly busy 16th Avenue North. The sit-down shop also will have a drive-through window.

Site plans still are working their way through official channels, but Mona Keehn says the hope is for the demolition and construction to begin yet this year.

Rick and Mona Keehn, who also own the Cariboucoffeedrawingadjacent Automotive Procare, bought the 3,000-square-foot building in 2011 for more than $730,000. They had hoped to find a tenant to lease it.

"We just couldn't find a good match," said Mona Keehn. "And then this came up."

042909pumpmunchBPciviccenter1jkIn the summer of 2009, all six of Rochester's BP Pump & Munch c-stores closed their doors for good. Since then, five of those buildings have either been re-purposed or demolished.

However, the 16th Avenue Pump & Munch has stood pretty much as it did in 2009. And now it will give up its spot for a new place for Rochester's growing population to grab a cup of coffee.

July 08, 2014

Cowboy Jacks now open on Broadway

The word is that Rochester's latest Western-themed eatery opened its doors and fired up the grill on Monday.

074After an extended build-out, Cowboy Jack’s is now cooking in the Wyndham Garden hotel at 1625 S. Broadway. That's the 145-unit hotel that was under the America's Best Value Inn and Suites brand from 2011 to November 2013.

Cowboy Jack's is a casual, American-style restaurant chain based in the Twin Cities.

The name and look of the hotel's bar and restaurant has morphed several times in the past few years. In 2008, it became Macho Nacho. Later it transformed into Ron's Place, which then became The Fieldhouse.

The Wayzata-based Bay Ridge Properties own the 40-year-old hotel. Bay Ridge purchased it in February 2012 for $4.8 million.

July 05, 2014

Courtesy Inn going down = Fairfield Inn going up

Demolition of the Courtesy Inn is picking up speed to clear the way for a new hotel to be built in northwest Rochester.

07042014courtesyinnOnce the old 44-room Courtesy Inn is torn down, a group of local investors will start construction of a 91-room, four-story Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel on the site at 510 17th Ave. N.W. That's near the Miracle Mile Shopping Center.

Parts of the Courtesy Inn date to 1952, when Marcel Prow opened Prow's Hotel.

The local investors are led by Nick Pompeian and Harshal Patel.

Construction of the Fairfield Inn is expected to take between six to eight months.

July 02, 2014

New south Rochester furniture store hopes to open in August

Schneiderman’s Furniture is targeting an August opening for its new Rochester location, which will be the fourth furniture store to open in the Med City this summer.

07022014schneidermansThe well-known Minnesota furniture retailer is making its first foray into southeast Minnesota by renovating a 30,991-square-foot store at 4540 Maine Ave. S.E. That's the former Best Buy store, which closed in 2012.

Larry Scheiderman says the project is moving along and they hope to be able to open the doors in August, possibly as soon as the first week of that month. Some hiring has already been done for the new store, but he says more people are still needed. Schneiderman's plans to have 20 people staffing the store.

Schneiderman’s is a third generation, family-owned business with four stores in the Twin Cities and one in Duluth. It was founded by Larry Schneiderman's parents, and now his son, Jason Schneiderman, is the president of the company.

The spike in Destination Medical Center-driven attention has spurred more than just Schneiderman's to try to furnish the rapidly growing Rochester.

Three other new furniture stores – Furniture Superstore Factory Outlet, Deutsch Furniture Haus and Hershberger's Furniture – have also opened this summer.