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15 posts categorized "Music business"

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.

September 03, 2013

Two new businesses in Valhalla Plaza

VahallasignsIt looks like Valhalla Plaza has a couple new businesses.

Guess I better check in with the guys at Braasch Commercial Real Estate to see what's shaking on Rochester's Elton Hills Drive.

Chickadee Music Studio sounds particularly intriguing.

July 25, 2011

Lanesoro landmark closing its doors

Here's some bad news for fans of the nearby artsy town of Lanesboro.

3786678963_7c8fee19f7 I've gotten word that Das Wurst Haus German Village and Deli, a Lanesboro landmark since the 1990s, is expected to close for good after Labor Day.

Arv and Jan Fabian usually shut down the deli known for its homemade sausages,root beer and impromptu accordion performances when they go to Arizona for the winter.

However this year, it sounds like they won't be re-opening in April for the tourist season.

"We're shutting her down," says Arv.

I haven't had a chance to chat with him in depth yet to find out the whole story, but he sounds like the plans to close up the shop are pretty firm.

I'll update this with any more details that I can round up.

September 07, 2010

Teen dance club to open in Roch.

Here's the follow-up to my earlier tease about a new teen club in Roch.

This is the extended, director's cut version of the item I had in print Monday.

This space is the same one that Ken Dewan started to develop as The Beaker. He has since decided to focus his efforts on his Clay Oven restaurant.

Rochester teen-agers will soon have a new answer to the old question of what to do on Friday or Saturday night in southeastern Minnesota.

Dennis McDonough is opening Club Z - an teen dance club - at 1205 7th St. N.W. in the 7,500-square-foot space that last housed the El Regio pool hall.

6a00d83451cc8269e20120a88dd4c0970b-800wi "The kids need something else to do," says McDonough, who also owns Excalibur Sound & Light mobile DJ business. "When I grew up I wish there could have been a spot where I could have went to listen to music and dance."

He hopes to open the doors of Club Z for the first time at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10.

The early plans are to have  DJ music playing when the club is open from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. Concessions-style food will be sold. No alcohol will be sold or allowed on the premises.

To meet local curfew rules, everybody will be out of the club before midnight and the younger students will be sent home sooner.

A cover of $7 will be charged at the door.

483105-footloose "That's cheaper than going to a movie," says McDonough.

To ensure a safe and fun atmosphere, Premier Security will be in the club and parking lot as well as McDonough's staff for a total of at least 10 adults on hand every night.

After the club gets rolling, he hopes to provide a venue for local high school bands to perform live. And it might eventually open after school as an afternoon hang-out.

Through the week, McDonough does plan on having free pool and darts lessons for teens provided by D & R Star of Rochester.

No matter how all of the details work out, the point of the club is to give local teens a place to gather.

"It is all about fun and music," he says.

September 03, 2010

New teen club to open in Roch.

Dancing Look for a Rochester teen club to open soon, most likely on Sept. 10, to offer a place to dance to DJ and eventually live music on Friday and Saturday night.

I'll have on more this in print Monday in the P-B's ultra special holiday edition.

March 01, 2010

More on last call at Aquarius

Here's some from the extended, Director's Cut online version of my article on last call at Aquarius/McMurphy's. A trimmed back version is on the front page of the print edition.

There are more Elizabeth Nida photos from the night online with the longer version of the article.

Rochester's largest and most popular night spots ended a 30 year run this weekend not with a bang, but with a party.

Murphy's Sports Cafe and the Aquarius Club had their last calls Saturday as the two venues became part of the city's history. The site will re-open later in spring as a new bar.

02282010aquarius2 While the future begins today with remodeling, the weekend was all about the past. The mood felt like a family reunion with cameras flashing, lots of hugs and most conversations starting with, "Remember when…?"

"I've had a lot of good times here," said Matt Bjergum as he sat at the McMurphy's bar with friends.

For 15 years, he, along with crowds of other Rochester people, spent many St. Patrick's Days and New Year's Eves at McMurphy's as well as many nights watching sports.

"It has been a good run," said Tom Murphy as he sat in his office on what he calculated as his 1,546th Saturday night - his last one - at McMurphy's/ Aquarius. "I have been very fortunate."

Murphy, who opened his first Rochester bar in 1975 when he was 23, built and opened Dooley's Lounge and Grill on the site at 12th Street and Marion Road Southeast with his partner Mick Kane in 1980.

In 1990, it was turned into McMurphy's. Aquarius Club, the dance club that could hold 700 people, opened up with its laser light shows and smoke machines.

For the last 14 years, Rosie, "the most relentless shot girl that you ever saw," sold drinks at Aquarius.

Called by her nickname Rosie in the club, Kim Palmby sold her last shots Aquarius became "the" place to be on Friday and came back Saturday for the send-off.

While the large club format is no longer as a popular as it was in the '80s and '90s, the club's fans were paying a cover charges of $15 and later $25 to get in, Palmby said the club was a special place where she formed many great friendships.

"Tom, Mick and Jack (Murphy) were the best to work for," she said.

As she looked at the metal detector that people passed through to enter the club, Palmby acknowledged that the scene had changed some in recent years.

While no major violence ever occurred inside Aquarius or McMurphy's, a reputation grew as incidents started happening in the large parking lot around the bars. Fights, an occasional stabbing and one shooting that happened after Aquarius closed for the night attracted the attention of the Rochester Police and local media.

"It is not a knock on the club. The staff has always worked well with us," said Chief Roger Peterson of the practice of having patrol and street officers monitoring closing time most Friday and two Saturday nights at Aquarius. "It is just the demographics. That many 21- to 25-year-olds in one place drinking and you'll have some problems."

February 26, 2010

End of the age of Aquarius

Here's the piece I have in today's paper about last call at the pair of Rochester bars, Aquarius/McMurphy's.

And I'm on duty Saturday, so I'll be there Saturday night for the last rounds. If you are or know a fan/employee/former employee of Aquarius/McMurphy's, I'd like to hear people's thoughts on this and their memories.

I'd also like to know where Aquarius/McMurphy's regulars plan to be next weekend.

The age of Aquarius and McMurphy's Sports Cafe, in Rochester, will come to an end Saturday night

Since Tom Murphy first built Dooley's Lounge and Grill on the site at 12th Street and Marion Road Southeast in 1977, it's been a Rochester night-life legend. Later, the attached Aquarius Night Club was built with its N49230808441_1505767_334967 spaceship-style entrance, and Dooley's was re-named McMurphy's.

Murphy is changing his focus from the southeast Rochester bars to a new sports grill in downtown. He's naming it Dooley's in a tip of the hat to the bar that opened 33 years ago. He hopes to open the new place on First Avenue Southwest in May.

After the 2 a.m. closing time on Sunday, Aquarius and McMurphy's will get a facelift and a new feel. Darren Groteboer, of Rochester, and Ken Nash, of Minneapolis, will take control of the space. They have owned the buildings that house the bars for five years. The combined bars will be under one name, which has yet to be determined, said Groteboer.

Fans of both bars have been posting nostalgic goodbyes on McMurphy's Facebook page. A celebration is planned for Saturday at McMurphy's, with free hors d'oeuvres from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

While many patrons and longtime staff members have fond memories of nights at the two bars, the businesses have also attracted controversy with fights and a shooting near it in recent years.

That reputation has made closing time at Aquarius/McMurphy's a regular part of Rochester police patrols and the newly formed chapter of Guardian Angels.

August 12, 2009

Denny Hanson + karaoke = ?

OK, here's something special.

The Rochester, Minn. City Council President and local business leader Denny Hanson showing his "softer side" by singing "I Can See Clearly."

Sorry, Denny. I couldn't resist.

And Thanks to Mike Nassif of Entertainment to Go for this clip from the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce 2009 Golf Tournament as well as all of the others.

Yes…I have more.

January 22, 2009

Clear Channel follows IBM's play

It seems Clear Channel Radio is taking a page from the IBM playbook.

Here's the response I got from from Clear Channel from my question about if the 1,850 person national layoffs hit Rochester's CC stations:

Please find below an internal email that was sent by CEO Mark Mays on January 20th to the company. The company won’t be commenting beyond sharing this.
The company is also not breaking numbers down by geography or business function. Nor is it releasing names.



Ray Yeung 

Associate Managing Director 
Brainerd Communicators, Inc.

New YorkNY


Today, we had the unpleasant task of bringing our Outdoor and Radio businesses staffing in line with these challenging economic conditions.  In doing so, we enter 2009 as a solid company and in the most competitive position possible.

We have thought carefully and at some length about the steps we need to take as a company to succeed during this unprecedented downturn.  As a result, we have eliminated approximately 1,850 positions across Corporate, Outdoor and Radio.  While a significant portion of these positions represent a realignment in our sales departments, the positions span all departments and represent approximately 9% of the total Clear Channel Communications workforce.


 That is as detailed as he gets. So if you stop hearing the usual personality running a show or have your Clear Channel ad cancel all appointments, let me know.

And does anyone why a PR firm called Brainerd Communications would be in NY, NY instead of the more expected Minnesota?

October 29, 2008

More on KROC radio cuts

My story about the job cuts at Cumulus Media's Rochester radio stations is out there now, but here's some of what Steve Skogen had to say as well as Megan Kennedy.

National financial woes reached Rochester radio this week when two local on-air personalities were laid off.

Steve “Scoop” Skogen, half of the longtime morning duo of Rich & Steve, and midday deejay Megan Kennedy, were laid off from Cum092507sliderrichsteve

ulus Media’s KROC AM and FM stations Friday as part of budget cuts.

“I had a good run after 35 years in the business,” Skogen said Tuesday. “I’ve been living my dream since I got into the business. I was fortunate to have worked as long as I did. I would have scripted the ending differently, but it was a great run.”

Told about the layoff “about 17 minutes after I got off the air Friday,” Skogen said it did come as a shock.

“I was blindsided by it. I didn’t see it coming at all,” he said.

However, he said he has no hard feelings about the matter.

Operations Manager Brent Ackerman, who worked with Skogen at KROC for more than 20 years, said it was a sad day, both personally and professionally.
 On KROC-FM (106.9), Kennedy hosted the KROC All-Request Noon Hour. She started at KROC when she was 17 in 1999 and eventually was given her own show.

“Part of me is still hoping it is a big ratings ploy that they didn’t tell me about,” she said talking about being laid off. She was told Thursday.

Kennedy says she was told it was pure economics and she had not done anything wrong.

“I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I’d like to stay in  Rochester,” she said this morning. “I’ll miss KROC and all of the listeners. Now this chapter is done and it is on to bigger and better things.”

Kennedy, megan
For his part, Skogen wanted to thank all the listeners that let him into their lives for so many years.

“I took pride in being involved in the goings-on in our community,” he said.
What’s next for him?

“Like everybody else, I still have a mortgage to pay,” he said, chuckling. “I’m looking for gainful employment for someone who will show up on time but has few marketable skills after so many years in radio.”