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June 09, 2015

Roch. repair shop get new name, but everything else remains same

The name over the door at Rochester's 434 South Broadway is new, but everything else about the auto repair shop is the same as it was before.

The Eastman Auto Repair sign recently went up on the small shop along the Zumbro River, though customers of Zeus Auto Repair will find nothing unchanged, said Zane Zodrow.

06092015eastmanautoZodrow, who owned Zeus Auto, says he sold the business to Gay Eastman at the start of 2015. The new sign just reflects that sale. He remains the manager of the three person, full-service shop.

"It's all the same. Honesty is still our main thing. We still treat people how we would want to be treated," he said. "We offer the same warranties."

However, Zodrow does a see a change coming down the road in the future.

The shop's building, which is owned by local investors, stands where Associated Bank would like to build a branch. That proposed project is still scheduled to go before the Rochester City Council after being rejected by the Rochester-Olmsted Planning and Zoning Commission.

Whether the bank branch goes forward or not, Zodrow does anticipate that the current shop will be  eventually be displaced by some sort development.

"We are looking for a new location," he said.

Zeus Auto Repair has operated at the prominent South Broadway location since 2010, when Zodrow moved from his previous spot on on Second Street Southwest.

June 04, 2015

Furniture Superstore to add used cars to Rochester's 'Car Row'

A little more than a year after turning a former Menards store into the Furniture Superstore, Jim Sather is ready to add used cars to his northwest Rochester facility.

In 2014, Sather and Mark Byer moved their Furniture Superstore and America's Mattress stores into the ex-Menards facility at 5150 U.S. Highway 52 North. Now, Sather has plans to convert the southwest corner of the store's massive parking area into the Auto Superstore, a used car dealership.

Logo"I've been thinking about it for a couple years. This is where all the car dealers are," he said referring to the "Car Row" line of dealerships along the frontage road.

Sather said he hopes to be licensed and ready to open by the end of June. Once licensed, Auto Superstore will start acquiring vehicles with the goal of having about 10 on the lot when it opens.

The dealership will be staffed by two and will use a separate entrance to the store as a base of operations.

As far as the Furniture Superstore goes, Sather says it has done "exceptionally well" since it moved last summer from its original home at 3185 41st St. NW. The opportunity to move to the current location opened up in April 2014, when Menards moved to a newly completed $12 million store near the intersection of U.S. 52 and 65th Street Northwest.

The independent Furniture Superstore opened in 2003. Sather and Byer added America's Mattress in 2005.

May 28, 2015

Mayo hires consultant to map out Discovery Square

To help fire up Discovery Square as "a catalyst" to create jobs in downtown Rochester, Mayo Clinic has contracted a feasibility study, independent of the Destination Medical Center Corp.

Mayo Clinic has hired the DMC development manager, Hammes Co. of Madison, Wis., to analyze the Discovery Square piece of the DMC vision and offer a market plan of how DiscoverySquarethe medical and technology research area might be developed. Mayo is paying Hammes $1.5 million to conduct the study, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

One expected tenant is Epic, a Madison-based software system that recently signed a contract to help build an electronic health record system for Mayo Clinic. It's planning on having many employees based in Rochester.

"They've indicated a strong interest in the Discovery Square concept, and we're exploring ways they may participate in that," said Bolton.

Discovery Square is described as "the focal point" for Mayo Clinic's expansion of its science and technology institutes, and it's designed as a place for private companies and others to work with Mayo on research and other projects. It's marked on the DMC map as being central to the Gonda Building and the Mayo Medical School.

"The Square is designed to be playful and artful, similar to the Google Commons in order to, quite simply, attract the best and the brightest, the most creative minds in the world," according to the DMC plan.

Mayo Clinic owns about 35 percent of the property within the proposed Discovery Square area.

The goal of the new study is to map out the area more specifically and identify potential partners and funding streams to make it sustainable.

Jeff Bolton, Mayo's chief administrative officer and the chair of DMC's Economic Development Agency, said Mayo funded the study because it's not part of the DMC EDA's scope.

"The EDA budget is really to provide staffing to support the DMCC board, to work with developers and help market the DMC concept," he said. "Mayo Clinic views this as area where we could serve as an important catalyst to advance the DMC vision. That's why we stepped up and are making this investment."

Mayo Clinic's relationship with Hammes dates back to the very early days of the DMC concept in 2008 before it became public. Mayo Clinic first officially contracted with the company about DMC in 2011. When the EDA signed its own contract with Hammes last year for $2.3 million a year, it had no ongoing Mayo contracts.

Bob Dunn, president of Hammes, explained that this study will be similar to his company's work on the overall DMC plan but will be much more detailed.

This study will include a master plan, a conceptual design, preliminary engineering, financial analysis, financing plan, a market analysis, a review of effective land use and operational aspects for Discovery Square.

"This will be a block-by-block plan," he said. "But we're not starting at ground zero. Mayo, which owns a good portion of the land in Discovery Square, has already thought a lot about this development."

Meanwhile, Mayo is actively working with companies to try to get them to locate there, Bolton said.

"We're out marketing the concept," said Mayo's Bolton. "Obviously, we have an interest in terms of attracting groups to collaborate with us."

The project's success likely will be driven by what partners want to work with Mayo Clinic.

"If I were to forecast, I'd say there will be multiple of owners of facilities in Discovery Square. Many will probably be owned by private developers," predicted Bolton. "There won't be a monolithic owner of the facilities. The free market will play out in this environment."

He added that Mayo Clinic may participate "directly or indirectly" in some of the development.

The multimillion dollar question is when actual development of this new job generator area will begin.

"We'll need a critical mass of corporate engagement in order to have a developer to put that first shovel in the ground," said Bolton.

Dunn said this is a fascinating feature of what is already a unique project.

"DMC and Discovery Square, to me, is one of the most interesting things that I can think of nationally in terms of major economic development," he said. "It's unique because impact Mayo Clinic can bring to something like this in a market that's now beginning to mature and evolve very quickly."

May 27, 2015

Manufacturer shopping for Roch. location?

The chatter on the streets these days is that a new manufacturer is seriously looking at the possibility of setting up shop in Rochester.
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While no names have surfaced yet, the buzz is that this manufacturer could need up to 250 workers and 200,000-square-feet of space.

If that is even close to accurate, this could be a big addition to Rochester's goal of becoming more economic diverse.

We'll keep an eye on this to see if this interested company decides to move ahead with a Med City project.

May 22, 2015

Updated version of Hillary Nutcracker comes out for new campaign

An updated version of the famous (or infamous) Rochester invention, the Hillary Clinton Nutcracker, is hitting the streets this week as the presidential campaign heats up.

1-hillary-nutcracker-in-the-boxThe 9-inch-high nutcracker with "stainless steel thighs" originally was created and patented by Frank Freeman in the basement of his Rochester home in 2008.  He sold the functional device in his Little Bear Trading Post store in the Apache Mall as well as nationally.

While Freeman's company, Damn Handy Products, now is based in Arizona, he still distributes his products from Minnesota. He also is considering opening another store in the Apache Mall, if he can work out a "new concept."

"It'll be phenomenal," said Freeman of how he anticipates the nutcracker will sell with Clinton walking away with the Democrat nomination. "Last time, we sold well over a quarter of million units and she wasn't nearly as popular."

In 2008, it sold for $19.95. Now the tag is $29.95.

This version of the nutcracker features Clinton wearing a pink blazer with a campaign button that reads "Hillary 2016 -- It's Crunch Time." It's already on sale at hillarynutcracker.com. The first shipments from China arrived in Minnesota this week to the company's fulfillment center. Freeman says they already have shipped out about 70 dozen orders to five stores and it will be featured on the cover of at least two national specialty catalogs.

Of course, many people find the product distasteful and insulting. When Urban Outfitters started selling the last of the 2008 nutcrackers for $60, it spurred many media sourc8-hillary-nutcracker-introes like the New York Post and Huffington Post to decry the site for selling a "sexist" product. Vox.com posted a story that said the $60 price tag “seems like $54.05 too much for something you might find in a very, very sexist Happy Meal.”

Freeman and his partner, Gibson Carothers, say the nutcracker is not meant to be mean-spirited.

"It's up to you decide whether that is good or bad. The headline on the box is simply"It's Crunch Time, America!" We think it's all in good fun," said Carothers. "Of course, we expect cries of sexism from some feminists. But we expect, and are already starting to feel, a more balanced reaction this time around."

The pair say that women's opinions about the original nutcracker changed over time. In the end, they estimate that one-third of buyers were Hillary Clinton backers. They hope that sentiment will continue to grow this time around.

"They started to see that a nutcracker could be seen as a tough, fearless leader. Realistically,
is the country going to elect a woman not perceived as tough?" said Carothers.

"I think a lot of people feel that it is pro-Hillary. The humor on the box is slightly more pro-Hillary this time," said Freeman.

Political feelings aside, they say the bottom line is the nutcracker is supposed to be funny. It's in the same spirit as their Smash Mute TV remote product, which features a giant button that can be pounded to mute "politicians, talking heads and erectile dysfunction commercials." 

Boutique owner to open second Rochester shop

A new boutique is bringing its quirky style to downtown Rochester this summer.

Camy Couture is slated to open on June 4 at 112 First Ave. SW, says owner Kim Shea. That's the high-profile spot next to O&B Shoes that previously housed Trademark Uniforms Inc. and About Face prior to that.

Darci Fenske of Paramark Real Estate brokered the deal.

CamycouturedowntownShea opened her first Camy Couture in Rochester's Shoppes of Maine area in 2013. She describes the store as having funky and unique women's fashions for "trendy moms and everybody else" at a reasonable price. It also carries accessories like handbags, scarves and sunglasses.

"We specialize in buying small sets. Once they are gone, they are gone. You don't see everyone around town wearing what you just bought," she said.

Now Shea is launching a second shop in the heart of Rochester's downtown.

"The opportunity came out of absolutely nowhere. It was too hard to pass up this location," she said. "The exposure of being downtown will help both stores."

She assures that new store will have the same "feel" of her at 4270 Maine Ave. S.E. Shea plans to have two on staff downtown. The Shoppes on Maine store is staffed by three, including her.

May 21, 2015

Kwik Trip to build replacement store in South Broadway

Rochester commuters will see double for a while this fall as a new Kwik Trip store is built to replace the existing one on Broadway Avenue South.

Hans Zeitlow, Kwik Trip's chief of real estate, explained that a new convenience store will be built on the north side of its lot at Broadway and 20th Street Southwest. That will put the new store right next to the car wash, which Kwik Trip built in 2012 on the site of the former Starlite Motel.

This project has been on the La Crosse, Wis.-based chain's drawing board for a while. Even the Answer Man noted he had heard aboSouthbroadwaykwiktriput it recently.

"This has always been our intention. We had the plans for the new store when we built the car wash," Zeitlow said. "This is just a matter of upgrading an old facility."

If everything goes according to plan, the current store will remain open during the construction of the new one. Zeitlow expects to be able to offer continuous service at the stores through the transition, though the fuel pumps may be down for a time.

The first phase of this elaborate upgrade dates back to August 2012, when Kwik Trip purchased the adjacent Starlite Motel from local hotelier Ash Patel for $500,000. The 58-year-old, retro-style, 17-room motel was demolished that September.

Howard and Edna Welch built it in 1954. A sister Starlite Motel remains open for business in Wisconsin Dells.

The Rochester Starlite's best known brush with fame is a connection to movie and television actress Lea Thompson. The official biography of the star of "Some Kind of Wonderful, "Howard the Duck" and the "Back to the Future" movies says she lived there in poverty for a while in the early 1960s with her parents and five brothers and sisters.

May 19, 2015

Military surplus shop sets sights on south Rochester

A military surplus store is planning to invade south Rochester this summer.

CC Military Surplus is leasing more than 3,000-square-foot space at 1513 12th St. S.E. in the Eastwood Plaza. Darci Fenske of Paramark Real Estate brokered the deal between CC Military Outfitters and the owners of Eastwood Plaza.

CcmilitarytruckCC Military President Rick Michel said he hopes to be able open the store in early July with a staff of five to six employees. It will be next to Apollo Liquor.

The store carries new and surplus military and outdoors gear like tents, outerwear, hats, patches, and manuals as well as paint ball and airsoft guns. It does not carry real firearms.

CC Military also offers a line of children's clothes and toys.

This will be the fifth store – the third in Minnesota – for the Central City, Iowa company. The Rochester store will fit right in the middle of CC Military's geographic footprint.
Eastwoodplaza2
"We love the opportunity to open a store in Rochester. I love Rochester," said Michel.

The surplus stores spun off of CC Manufacturing in Central City in 2002. CC Manufacturing makes tent stakes, pack frames, heavy-duty vehicle jack stands and conveyor bed systems for C-130 military transport planes for the U.S. military.

Michel describes his shop as "not your standard surplus store" with dim lights and tables full of piles of random gear.

"The outdoor enthusiast is our main customer. And we carry clothing and patches for the National Guard and local military," he said.

Southeast auto business to build a new, bigger shop

A long-time, family-owned auto shop is shifting gears to build a new home in southeast Rochester.

Tilson's Auto Repair, owned and run by Ben Tilson with his two sons, hopes soon to start construction of a new eight-bay, state-of-art shop on an open lot at 1740 South Broadway. That puts them between the 63 Club bar and Advance Auto Parts.

TilsonsThey hope to have the new almost 7,000-square-foot facility completed and ready to open this fall, possibly as early as September.

The elder Tilson has been repairing Rochester vehicles since 1984. In 2004, he moved into the four-bay shop in the Kmart building at  843 Third Ave. S.E. Now 11 years later, he needs a larger place with more visibility.

"The market changed. The dynamics have changed with DMC (Destination Medical Center)," he said. "As Rochester grows, we grow."

In the current location, he has six on staff including himself and his sons, Joe Tilson and the younger Ben Tilson. Once the new shop is completed, they hope to add four to six more employees to the staff.

The new shop will give the Tilsons access to some vehicles that are difficult to deal with now, added the younger Ben Tilson.

"We'll have bigger doors, which will make it a lot easier to work on bigger vehicles," he said.

The new location still will keep the shop in the area where they have long served customers.

"We wanted to stay in general area. Southeast is home," said younger Ben Tilson. "We want to be the predominant family-owned shop on this side of town."

May 18, 2015

The hot dogs of spring to return to downtown Rochester

Spring has officially arrived in Rochester with the annual return of Rick "Murph" Murphy and his hot dog cart.

6a00d83451cc8269e2017eea981e83970d-250wiAfter a long winter of eating indoors, the return of Murphy's cart is a significant milestone for downtown lunch crowd.

This is year marks the tenth season of the jovial Murphy selling hot dogs downtown in the Peace Plaza. Weather permitting, he's planning on putting up his umbrella in front of the Wells Fargo building and open for business on Tuesday.

To celebrate his tenth anniversary, he's rolling out some spice to his menu with some new items.

In addition to his usual hot dogs, chips and soda, Murphy will be serving a new cheddar and jalapeno sausage with salsa, a new turkey dog with barbecue sauce and onions and a new Italian beef sandwich cooked in au jus sauce.

For the really hungry diners, he will also have new larger sizes of drinks and bags of chips.