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64 posts categorized "Todd Schwarz, Rochester, Minn."

April 26, 2013

With weather warming, hot dog man to return to downtown

It feels as if the weather finally has taken a turn for the better and maybe, just maybe, the dogs of winter are leashed again for at least a few months.

That means it's time to start relishing the spring days in the Med City again.

6a00d83451cc8269e2017c328b3ea7970b-250wiAnd what better way to do that than with downtown Rochester's gem, Murph's Diamond Dogs. On Monday, Rick Murphy plans to roll out his cart and start serving hot dogs for the hungry packs hunting for a quick and tasty lunch.

Look for the genial Murphy with his ball cap and stainless steel cart at his usual spot in the Peace Plaza by O & B Shoes.

The Pine Island man and his cart have added flavor to downtown for eight years.

That means he has been around downtown longer than the University of Minnesota-Rochester, Sontes, Chester's, the Minnesota BioBusiness Center, 300 First, Social Ice, 318 Commons, Big Brad's, Hot Shots! and lots of other changes.

He was already selling dogs when people started saying "Rah-Rah" about Rochester.He was downtown long before it became "The Place To Be." He was here when DMC was just part of the name of an '80s rap group.

Quite simply, downtown is Murph's turf.

With sun shining and people buzzing around the plaza, it'll be good to have him back where he belongs.

April 25, 2013

Holiday to close the "runt" of SA C-store litter

It looks like the addition of Holiday gas stations to Rochester will mean the subtraction of a current station from the market.

The buzz going around South Broadway is that when Holiday takes ownership of the six SuperAmerica stations in Rochester on May 1, one of them will go dark.

ShowPhoto.aspxOfficials with Bloomington-based Holiday have not responded to inquiries about changes in the Med City. However, there is evidence to support this closing theory. Rochester building permits show that Holiday signs are going up at all of the Super America stations, except the one on South Broadway.

People in the neighborhood around the station say they are hearing the store is closing because it's the smallest in the batch. The 18-year-old Broadway station is 1,900 square feet. By comparison, SA's station on Second Street Southwest is about 1,500 square feet larger.

Of course, having a Kwik Trip station right next to the South Broadway SA probably didn't help its perceived viability.

If that station does go dark, it will be interesting to see what happens next. Holiday does have a history of selling its "surplus real estate," so there's a good chance that lot will go on the market.

For obvious reasons (see previous sentence about Kwik Trip), it will probably not become another gas station.

So what could go there? 

I'd say a coffee shop, small diner or even a fast food place (Dare I say… White Castle?) could be reasonable options for that high traffic area along South Broadway.

Even a bar might work there. Remember, Beer Bellyz is a converted Holiday gas station.

April 23, 2013

Tech columnist on Decline and Fall of IBM

I've pointed out the writings of well-known tech columnist Bob Cringely and his dire (and sometimes accurate) predictions about IBM.

As a long-time tech writer, he seems to have to pretty good grasp of how IBM has changed over the years. He has always been very critical of Big Blue's management, which he sees as creating profits at the expense of their employees instead creating of good technology.

CringleyCringely's latest prediction is that IBM will withdraw its 401K contributions for its employees. They have already made some significant changes in that area, from shifting from making 401k contributions in every paycheck to doing it just once a year.

I wonder what local IBMers think about that. Is it possible? Could that be in the works?

The Decline and Fall of IBM is the headline of Cringely's latest column as well as the title of an e-book that is releasing soon.

Here's an excerpt from the column:

IBM is in trouble, you see, serious trouble caused primarily by executive corrosion from within. Not only did Big Blue miss its earnings target last quarter for the first time in years, if the rumors I am hearing are correct the company’s primary response will be to screw U.S. employees even more than they have already.

The rumor I’ve heard is that IBM, which not long ago changed its 401k contribution policy to push what had been a biweekly payment into an annual one right at the end of the year, may have decided this year (and in the future?) not to make any 401K contribution at all. Since IBM’s U.S. employees can divert up to eight percent of their gross compensation into the 401K and IBM has traditionally made a comparable matching payment, this possible change in compensation policy could save the company close to $1 billion.

In one sense one might ask what’s wrong with that? Companies have to do what they have to do in this economy and workers sometimes suffer. But for IBM it indicates the company is getting near the bottom of its bag of tricks for maintaining earnings growth toward that ambitious 2015 goal of $20 per share. Management seem to be down to three ideas to improve the numbers: 1) savage the 401K plan; 2) sell the low-end server business to Lenovo for a reported $2.5 billion, and; 3) expect a miracle called PureSystems.


 

 

 

April 16, 2013

Appeals Court reverses ruling on Rochester Buffalo Wild Wings dispute

The owners of Rochester's Crossroads Shopping Center feel vindicated by a  Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling in their favor in a long-running battle over a proposed Buffalo Wild Wings.
Crossroadsbww"I've always said, 'If anyone in the courts follow the law, we'll win,'" says Bob Meek, who owns Crossroads with Vic Scott. "It gives me faith that the judicial system is functioning properly. I was starting to have my doubts."

After losing three battles at the planning commission, the Rochester City Council and then in Olmsted County District Court, Crossroads won the legal war in the end.

Monday's ruling reversed a June ruling by Olmsted County Judge Nancy Buytendorp that dismissed Crossroads' lawsuit against BWW owner Graf Enterprises and the city of Rochester.

The dispute was over the city's approval of  Rochester businessman Tom Graf's plan to build a 7,000-square-foot Buffalo Wild Wings in the lot in front of the Crossroads center. Graf introduced the development plan in 2011, when he purchased Pannekoeken Huis restaurant, demolished it and then filed to build his second Rochester BWW on the site.

"We are extremely disappointed in the appellate court ruling," Graf said Monday afternoon.

What does this mean for his plans to build a second Buffalo Wild Wings and his ownership of the land surrounded by Crossroads property?

"We are taking a look at our options," he said.

Parking is at the heart of this dispute . The city-approved plan called for 55 parking spaces — 35 on Graf's plot of land and 20 spaces in the surrounding Crossroads parking lot.

That calculation was made with the understanding that the proposed restaurant is part of the business center. Otherwise the proposed restaurant would require 88 parking spaces.

The Crossroads owners long have said that the city ordinances were not being followed and that the plan took their property away and gave it to Graf for his use.

"For a developer and a shopping center, excess parking is money in the bank," said Meek.

In the appeals court ruling, the judges sided with Crossroads' position, writing "Because Crossroads' protectable right to the parking spaces on its property is placed in jeopardy by the city's actions, Crossroads has standing, its claim is ripe and the district court erred by dismissing the claim on justiciability grounds."

The ruling stated that the city staff did not follow Rochester's own ordinances in regards to what is part of a business center and if Graf had enough control of the Crossroads' parking spaces to warrant allowing him to use 22 of them.

City Attorney Terry Adkins said that the ruling means that the city planning department will now need to "strictly" apply the ordinances.

For his part, Meek said he was relieved to have the case resolved after so long, though he still feels it should not have played out the way it did.

"I think it is terrible that a private party like us had to spend so much on a lengthy case just to prove the city wasn't following their own rules," he said.

Rochester's DMC tight rope walk - Looking for people for article

Last week I interviewed a few local leaders about the DMC tight rope walk, particularly after last week's political chatter about Rochester being boring.

WelcomeIt seems the path is between "Rochester needs money to be better" and "Rochester is a great city."

I'm looking for to interview folks who normally don't get quoted in the newspaper for feedback on if Rochester actually is dull? Dull or not, everyone seems to have ideas about what this city needs to improve the quality of life here plus add some zest to the community's personality.

Beside looking for the opinions of average people, I'd also like to chat with some young doctors as well as some patients visiting here for medical treatment.

If you are interested, please contact me at [email protected] or 285-7798.

April 04, 2013

Plug pulled on IBM's record breaking computer Roadrunner

IBM's record-breaking Roadrunner supercomputer was the fastest computer in the world when introduced five years ago.
But this week, it was retired and soon will be dismantled, surpassed by other machines in the fast-evolving world of supercomputers.
The Roadrunner, which owed much of its hybrid design and manufacture to Big Blue's Rochester campus, was the first machine to break the computer industry's "sound barrier" in 2008 by clocking a petaflop or one quadrillion calculations per second.

Roadrunner_1“We just all looked around and said, ‘We made it,’” stated Peter Keller, who was part of the Rochester manufacturing team that recorded that historic milestone on May 25, 2008.

The plug was pulled on the $121 million supercomputer on Easter Sunday at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"Roadrunner, while I would not define it as strictly obsolete, it has been surpassed by newer technology," said Kevin Roark, of Los Alamos. "It's perfectly normal. …This is the natural progression."

Roadrunner's duties are being shifted over to Los Alamos' Cielo supercomputer, which is made by Seattle-based Cray Inc. Two years younger than Roadrunner, Roark describes it as faster, smaller, less expensive and more energy-efficient than its IBM predecessor.

Until it was shut down, Roadrunner ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week since being delivered to the laboratory via 25 trucks.

While it now is being experimented on as it waits to be dismantled and shredded, Roadrunner took Los Alamos' work on the United States' nuclear weapons stockpile to a new level.

"It has performed remarkably well. It has really helped us solve some fundamental problems that were essentially unsolvable before a computer of its speed," Roark said.

It wasn't just its speed that made Roadrunner so groundbreaking. The revolutionary hybrid design that coordinated the use of different types of computer chips, including Cell chips originally designed in Rochester to be used in Sony's PlayStation 3 video game system.

"Roadrunner was a truly pioneering idea," said Gary Grider, of Los Alamos' High Performance Computing Division, in a statement. "Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer."

Los Alamos teamed up with IBM to build Roadrunner from commercially available parts. They ended up with 278 refrigerator-size racks filled with two different types of processors, all linked together by 55 miles of fiber optic cable.

The supercomputer has been used over the last five years to model viruses and unseen parts of the universe, to better understand lasers and for nuclear weapons work. That includes simulations aimed at ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation's aging arsenal.

Roadrunner was the world's fastest computer for 18 months. At its peak, it was two times faster than Blue Gene/L, which was IBM’s star machine and the fastest computer in the world in 2007.

Its historic speed kept Roadrunner on the Top 500 Fastest Computers list, despite being outdated. It still ranked as 22nd fastest machine in the world in November.

IBM had four of the top 10 fastest computers on that November list, and all had roots in Rochester. Sequoia, a BlueGene/ Q, took the No. 2 spot behind Cray's Titan. Other BlueGenes — Miram JUQUEEN and Fermi — locked up the fourth, fifth and ninth spots.

March 29, 2013

Paint business to build new store, add more color to S. Broadway

It looks like more color is in the pipeline for Rochester's South Broadway.

A Rochester paint business looking for a home has decided to build a new store.

29sherwinwilliamssiteSherwin-Williams plans to build a 4,000-square-foot paint store on a spot in the parking lot in front of the south ShopKo and Menards stores, just south of Culvers.

The hope is to get it built and open by October, says Nate Reit, manager of the south Rochester Sherwin-Williams store located in the former Rochester Market Square building. That former "home building mall" used to house a number of similar construction business tenants. However, that focus faded when the economy crashed and the building industry was gutted.

The 56,000-square-foot complex was purchased by the Rochester School District for $2.1 million last fall. It is being remodeled to house area learning programs.

With the building being "schooled," the one remaining tenant, Sherwin-Williams, needs to move out.
The_sherwin-williams_company_logo
That's where the new store comes in. Reit says building will allow Sherwin-Williams to have "total control" of its future in south Rochester.

"I think our retail business will really thrive there, particularly being near Menards," he says. "We haven't been that accessible for the past six and half years we have been here (in Rochester Market Square)."

However, Sherwin-Williams does have a strong relationship with many of the area's contractors, and he believes that will continue in the new spot.

Right now, the south store has nine on staff.

"I think we'll probably need to add people at the new location, just to keep up with the additional retail business," Reit says.

In addition to the south location, Sherwin-Williams has a store on the north side of Rochester. Both stores are corporate-owned.

March 26, 2013

New salon concept ready to launch in south Rochester

A new twist on hair salons is ready to roll into south Rochester.
Austin and Kari Lucas are setting up a Sola Salon Studios franchise in 5,200 square feet of space in Shoppes on Maine. Sola Salon is taking most of the strip of empty spots along the north side of the complex that houses MGM Liquors and the former Best Buy store.

1The concept is more like a mall than a traditional beauty salon. It will be a collection of 26 private studios that will be available for lease by licensed stylists and professionals in related fields. Three sizes of models will be available.

"We're not in the salon business," explained Austin Lucas. "We're in the business of putting people into business."

Each studio is its own independent operation with its own name, retail products, prices and hours.

"They keep all of the money. They can start their own salon without any of the usual headaches of starting a business," he said. "This is several steps further than stylists renting a chair, like you see in many salons."

If everything goes as planned, construction should begin soon. The hope is to have the studios ready for tenants by early to mid-summer.

Besides a space, Sola Salon provides the hydraulic chairs, sinks and whatever other basic equipment that is needed.

Access to the studios is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That allows the tenants to be open when they want to work.

Three Sola Salon Studios are open in the Twin Cities, and two others are under construction. This will be the first one outside of the metro area.

March 25, 2013

Is Holiday taking over Roch.'s SA gas stations? Looks like it

The buzz is that the Med City will have a lot more Holidays in its future, but don't expect any changes to the calendar.
Superamerica_0For the past few weeks, folks in the know have been saying that Bloomington, Minn.-based Holiday Station Stores plans to take over the seven SuperAmerica convenience stores in the near future, possibly by the beginning of May.

One version goes even further and says Holiday plans to build two additional new stations here to bring its total of Rochester sites to nine.

Holiday's head office as well as SA's corporate parent, Northern Tier Energy in Ridgefield, Conn., have not been helpful as I've tried to confirm or disprove this high-octane story, which is getting such good mileage at the pumps.

The only response I've received is this email from Christine Carnicelli of Northern Tier, "As a general policy we do not comment on our business operations so we would prefer not to provide any details on this matter."

Nonetheless, evidence is building that Holiday is indeed gearing up to roll into the Rochester market in a big way.
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Holiday Station Stores Inc. has filed a permit with the city of Rochester to build a station on the open land at the corner of West Circle Drive Northwest and Valleyhigh Road Northwest. That would put it right next to Ford-Metro Glass and across West Circle from Mayo Clinic's Superior Drive Support Center.

With CostCo's move into the area acting as a catalyst to spur other nearby retail projects, that seems to be a pretty good spot to put a station.

A search on Holiday's website for Rochester locations comes up with the single station at the entrance to the Cub Food Plaza at U.S. 14 and 15th Avenue Southeast.

Holiday took over that station in October 2011. Before that change, Holiday had been absent from this market for five years with its last Med City station closing in January 2006. That one was later transformed into the Beer Bellyz bar, along Civic Center Drive Northwest.

While the website lists only one station, Holiday's list of job openings tells a very different story.

Holiday is taking applications for eight Rochester locations. The addresses match the city's seven SuperAmericas and the one active Holiday station.

This shift might mean a change to the calendars after all.

Mark this spring as the start of the "Great Med City Gas War" between Holiday and Rochester's reigning C-store champ, Kwik Trip.

March 21, 2013

New building proposed for deposed Burger King site

After eight years as an empty building gathering dust, a proposed development might mean that it's time to say farewell to Rochester's deposed King.

This royal saga begins with an ending, so here's a slightly condensed version of the history to provide background for the new chapter.

DeposedbksiteIn 2005, the Burger King at 4107 U.S. 52 N. closed its doors after a dispute between franchisee Road Corp., which was owned by Girish Dharod, and the royal fast food corporation ended with all five of Rochester's BKs being shut down.

Burger King shifted the Rochester area franchises to the Twin Cities-based Dolphin Corp., which quickly re-opened three of the five restaurants.

The two others — the North 52 location and the one at 615 S. Broadway — were owned by the Dallas, Texas-based Z’s American Properties. Z's American Properties is owned by Sunil Dharod, Girish's brother.

Eventually, a real estate auction of the two ex-BKs was held in 2006. Dolphin was the top bidder, but Sunil Dharod later rejected the bids.

A frustrated Greg Dolphin said he was ready to “go back to the drawing board" and pursue other Rochester sites to open more Burger Kings. True to his word, Dolphin is planning to build a new restaurant on a long empty chunk of land at the corner of 12th Street Southeast and Marion Road Southeast. When completed, it will be the new home for the BK that's now based in the nearby Cub Food Plaza.

ExbkplanIn the ensuing years, the South Broadway building became the Tex-Mex eatery Rico Mex. That closed in 2008. It was bought up by the University of Minnesota Rochester and demolished to clear the way for a future campus.

Meanwhile, Sunil Dharod's other building sat quietly, tucked away in its nook on the U.S. 52 frontage road

That could all change now that Z's American Properties has filed plans with the city to build a 7,400-square-foot complex. The plans show it split into two units — a 2,400-square-foot restaurant and a 5,000-square-foot retail site. Rochester's McGhie & Betts is handling the design duties.

The building plans were filed with the city this week, so it might be a while before anything happens at the faded fast food site. If the plan does move forward, it'll be interesting to see what restaurant might open there.

Like his brother, Sunil Dharod was a franchisee with Burger King. At one point, he had 18 BKs as well as many Applebee's restaurants. His BKs were auctioned off in 2011. The Dallas Morning News described the split as being "Beset by lawsuits, slumping sales and hard feelings."

Sunil Dharod still has his flourishing portfolio of 43 Applebee's, all of which are in Texas. However, an Applebee's doesn't seem a likely candidate for the new spot, since one is already cooking across the highway. Since the plans include a drive-through window, it looks like some sort of fast food entity is in mind.