If Duluth feels like home,
it's because it could be.

#befromDuluth

Hansi Johnson

Purpose

Destination Duluth’s purpose is to educate and inspire people about the quality of place of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the city and region’s positive growth.

Mike and Jen’s Hot Cocoa is Turning Sips Into Smiles

Mike and Jen’s Cocoa
Turning Sips Into Smiles
One cup at a time

Once upon a time in the beautiful northern city of Duluth, Minnesota, there lived a little girl named Jen who loved to play outside, even in the snowiest and coldest of weather. Every day, when she came inside, she wanted a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Her dad Dean would go to the cupboard and bring out a can of a well-known big-brand cocoa mix to make hot chocolate for Jen and her brother Mike.

One wintry day, he happened to look at the label of ingredients on the back of the cocoa can. “Dipotassium Phosphate? Acesulfame? Polysorbate? What are all these chemicals that I am serving to my children?” he said.

He exclaimed to Mike and Jen, “What if we make our own cocoa mix, and make it the best cocoa in the entire world?”

“Yay!” the Packingham siblings replied.

And the rest is history . . .

Born and raised in Duluth, Dean Packingham was a long-time meteorologist at the Duluth National Weather Service. In 2012, the scientist in him kicked in as he set off on his quest to make cocoa for his kids, and he started ordering 65 varieties of cocoa powders from all over the world.

Amanda Cunningham and Dean Packingham, co-owners of Mike and Jen's Cocoa

“I spent a year of my life, becoming the ‘mad scientist’ of cocoa mix. We discovered that all cocoa powders are not created equal. We did, however, find one from Italy that we loved that had been made for over 170 years,” Dean explained.

After much experimentation, taste testing and refining of the recipe, they landed on their special blend of Mike and Jen’s Cocoa, combining whole milk powder, pure cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder and sea salt.

They started sharing it with friends and Dean’s colleagues at the National Weather Service, and everyone loved it and wanted more.

Starting with six bags, and working out of several area kitchens, with sales to local shops, restaurants and stores, the business took off. From experimenting in their own kitchen, to now ten years later, Mike and Jen’s Cocoa’s popularity has exploded.

Dean brought his best friend Amanda Cunningham on board in 2016 after she retired from the Weather Service. Dean also retired from the Weather Service in 2017 so that he and Amanda could both concentrate entirely on the business.

Amanda is now co-owner of Mike and Jen’s as well. Amanda and Dean share responsibilities equally for Mike and Jen’s Cocoa, splitting the duties between them, with Amanda more of the numbers person, and running more of the business side. “Dean is the face of the company, and I do anything I can to help make it all work,” she said. “We have great fun working together as we continue to branch out more.”

Dean, Jen and Mike Packingham and Amanda Cunningham. Photo submitted.

Dean added, “I am so proud of what we have accomplished as a family in my hometown. And Amanda has made all the difference in us being able to grow. Although we made this cocoa with my kids in mind, drinking it makes us all kids again.”

“We are very proud to be a Duluth-based business,” said Amanda. “The community has been so loyal to us, and we love how the city works together to encourage people to shop locally.”

Crafted in Duluth, Mike and Jen's have made Duluth the "Hot cocoa capital of the world."

“We are a strong regional brand in the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota currently,” said Dean.

It is easy “to get your mittens on” Mike and Jen’s Cocoa at over 800 locations and growing, including Costco, Target, Cash Wise, Lund’s, Byerlys, Hy-Vee, Meijer, and at hotels, restaurants and gifts shops throughout the region. Find a list at mikeandjens.com/cocoa-finder. It’s also sold on Amazon where Prime members get free shipping. Customers can also buy online at the Mike and Jen’s website (mikeandjens.com). The cocoa comes in a variety of sizes including bulk packaging and single serve.

Mike and Jen’s was in the top 10 of all food items sold at the Duluth Costco last year. Their mix is now sold in 13 Minnesota Costcos.

Locally, Mike and Jen’s is served at the DECC and Amsoil Arena for all events, and on the menu at the New London Cafe, Vanilla Bean (both locations) and at 190 Coffee. Over 40 local retail outlets, hotels and gift shops also sell their packaged cocoa.

Their website features recipes to make with the mix, including peppermint hot chocolate, frozen cocoa pops, and Mexican cocoa. It is also great in place of creamer in coffee for a delicious mocha.

Mike and Jen’s has even gone international. They are selling their “muy deliciosa” (very delicious) mix in Mexico, the third largest consumer of cocoa in the world.

Selling Mike and Jen's cocoa in Mexico. Submitted photo.

Jen is now in college at UMD majoring in business and Mike is in graduate school at Hamline working on a teaching degree.

Jen and Mike Packingham today. Submitted photo.

Dean has done his best to keep his promise to his kids to make the best cocoa in the world. He is also proud to say that because of Mike and Jen’s, Duluth is indeed “the cocoa capital of the world.”

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Duluth Cider - “Superior to the Core”

Duluth Cider

Duluth Cider patio. Submitted photo.

Duluth Cider - “Superior to the Core”

The people have spoken. And they have unequivocally shared a strong preference for consuming locally-sourced products and ingredients.

As such, craft beverages have been all the rage in recent years. Breweries and distilleries have joined the popular ranks of wineries and continue to pop up all across the U.S.

Another rapidly-growing option? Cideries!

Today, we share the compelling story of Duluth Cider, a locally owned and operated cidery/taproom that opened right here in Duluth in 2018. Its catchy tagline, “Superior to the Core,” demonstrates both a dedication to quality and deep roots near Lake Superior.

Cider

While apple cider is a beverage to be enjoyed by all ages, hard cider - containing alcohol – provides next-level apple-y refreshment. It is true that the beverage has gained popularity in recent years; however, cider is actually a drink that originated in ancient times.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Until relatively recent history, apples weren’t for eating. In fact, they were often too bitter to just munch on. Instead, for thousands of years, people would press them for the juice and leave it to ferment, letting it bubble away until it turned into boozy hard cider.” [1]

Duluth Cider

Duluth Cider, located at 2307 West Superior Street, is owned by Jake and Valerie Scott. The business celebrated its grand opening in November 2018 and has been going gangbusters ever since.

Jake and Valerie Scott, founders and owners of Duluth Cider. Photo submitted.

“We’re in a country where breweries are king, but there is a rich tradition of cideries, too,” Jake Scott shared. “We offer ciders ranging from sweet to dry, along with traditional ciders, experimental, fruited ciders, and even hopped cider.”

The business strongly favors using local ingredients. “Minnesota is known for its apple varieties, and the University of Minnesota is such a trailblazer in the apple world,” Jake said. “We source our juice from the Great Lakes area, mostly from Minnesota and Bayfield, Wisconsin.”

Jake shared a bit about Duluth Cider’s output thus far. “Last year, we sold 60,000 gallons, and we are on track to finish this year well above that number,” he said. “But our goal isn’t volume, but a Superior product. We want to continue making really good cider and bringing the community together in our taproom.”

Why Cider?

Valerie Scott is originally from Chaska, Minnesota, while Jake hails from the Brainerd area. The couple met while attending college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and got married in 2013.

Jake explained their mutual interest in cider. “Before we got together, we both had an interest in beer and brewing beer, and Valerie was also interested in wine and wine-making. We made beer together for our wedding. We both enjoy it and enjoy doing it together.”

During a temporary move to Massachusetts, Valerie got a job with Far from the Tree Cider, based in Salem. “After that, our hobby of making beer became a passion for cider,” Jake said.

The couple later spent some time backpacking across Europe to learn the craft. “Some of the best cider makers in the world are in France, Switzerland, Italy, and the UK,” Jake shared. “We wanted to learn how they do things and learn about the culture and global traditions of cider.”

The Scotts worked on the logistics of their cidery – including a business plan, location, and financing – for about two years before making the leap.

Venue

When 2307 West Superior Street became available, the couple knew it was the right venue for their cidery. “It was built in 1919, and originally used as stables for the U.S. Postal Service’s horses,” Jake said.

“It has barn-like ceilings, and original brick walls,” he added. “But the brick was covered with several layers of thick paint. We scraped and stripped it down ourselves. It took hundreds of hours.”

Ultimately, all that hard work paid off. “Duluth Cider offers warm tones, low lighting, and a place where people can just sit down and feel cozy. Knowing Duluth, sometimes you just need a cozy, warm place,” Jake noted.

Duluth Cider’s logo is a creatively rendered blend of hops and an apple. “Our logo brings together tradition and innovation,” Jake shared. “Among other choices, we have hopped ciders on tap. We love expanding people’s perceptions of what ciders can be.”

Cider

As of this writing, Duluth Cider currently has 16 varietals on tap. This includes Gitch – a semi-sweet cider; Trailside – a strawberry-basil flavored, semi-sweet cider; and Las Lajas – a coffee-infused sweet cider, which is infused with coffee from Duluth Coffee Company. The rotation is always changing, so customers are encouraged to watch Duluth Cider’s website and social media pages for updates.

Glensheen Gold, a cider created in partnership with Glensheen Mansion, where apples are harvested from the grounds, will also be available at the end of October.

Ingredients

Duluth Cider orders fresh-pressed apple juice - in quantities of 6,000 gallons per order - to make their cider. Erickson Orchard, based in Bayfield, Wisconsin, has been one of the cidery's closest orchard partners since opening in 2018.

“We contact the orchard and order a blend of juice,” Jake shared. “It is unpasteurized, unprocessed, and unfiltered. Then, the fermentation is done here at Duluth Cider.”

The apple juice varietals are typically a blend/mixture of either crab apples or dessert apples, including SweeTango (introduced in 2009 when horticulturalists from the University of Minnesota bred a Honeycrisp with a Zestar), McIntosh, and Pazazz.

Customers can purchase cider by the pint, flight, pitcher, crowler, growler, and can. A “cider finder” on Duluth Cider’s website can point patrons to liquor stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota that carry their products.

Photo from the Duluth Cider Facebook page.

Staff

Duluth Cider employs about 20 people. This includes bartenders, packaging assistants, administrative roles (including HR and marketing), and assistant cider makers. Christian Junes is the head cider maker, and Tara Norstegard serves as the taproom manager.

Jake Scott handles sales and marketing, events, and outreach. Valerie Scott handles production, HR-related tasks, and financials for the business.

“We’re a pretty small, hardworking team, and we take pride in what we do,” Jake shared.

Events and Merch

Duluth Cider offers a variety of fun, on-site events. There are two stages (one indoor; one on the patio) for live music. Every Monday there is trivia. Tuesdays offer Bingo Taco Tuesdays, where free bingo is available and the Oasis Del Norte food truck is parked outside.

The Big, Bad Apple Bash, an annual anniversary celebration, will be held on October 15th. A special cider featuring community-donated apples will be available.

Duluth Cider also has an on-site gift shop. Patrons can pick up items like hoodies, flannels, hats, t-shirts, and dog toys.

Awards

In just four years in business, Duluth Cider has picked up many awards, including the Star Tribune’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Minnesota Cidery in both 2021 and 2022.

The Las Lajas Coffee Cider earned the 2019 U.S. Open Cider Championship Gold Medal, and the Greenstone Hopped Cider won the same award in 2020.

And, in 2022, Duluth Cider earned the Glint Cap Award’s gold medal for the Trailside Strawberry Basil.

Personal

The Scotts have many other interests beyond cider. The couple, who live in Duluth’s Hunter’s Park neighborhood, have an Australian Shepherd pup named Archie, and two cats – Nixon and Luna. Nixon falls under the umbrella of an “adventure cat,” and has joined the Scotts on many outdoor expeditions.

Additionally, Jake is a musician, and Valerie is a rock climber. They both enjoy hiking – particularly on the Superior Hiking Trail - and traveling.

Rewarding

For the Scotts, owning a cidery is a satisfying endeavor. And being in Duluth is the icing on the cake.

“The most rewarding thing to me is introducing people to the world of cider,” Jake shared. “I remember the first time I tried a really good craft cider – which was in Salem, Massachusetts. I said to myself, ‘There’s a whole world here that I knew nothing about.’”

Despite this synchronistic occurrence on the East Coast, however, Duluth will always be home for Jake and Valerie.

“When we were in Massachusetts, we’d sit by the ocean and say, ‘Man, I miss Lake Superior; I miss Duluth. We felt we needed to get home. Duluth is a huge part of our hearts, and it always will be.”

[1] The Ancient Origins of Apple Cider | Smart News| Smithsonian Magazine

For more on Duluth Cider go to their website, follow them on Facebook and on Instagram @duluthcider. Click below to learn more from their YouTube page

 

 

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Dr. Chiamaka Enemuoh’s Journey to Duluth and Entrepreneurship

Dr. Chiamaka Enemuoh’s Journey to Duluth and Entrepreneurship

Dr. Chiamaka Enemuoh. Submitted photo.

Starting a new business is no easy feat. And, if the entrepreneur is an immigrant, the challenges can quickly multiply. In addition to hard work and dedication, success can require things like learning a new language, picking up new customs and traditions, and, if you’re in Duluth, adjusting to some pretty extreme temperatures.

Dr. Chiamaka Enemuoh (her last name is pronounced like “anymore” without the R) emigrated to the United States from Nigeria as a young adult. Today, she is the owner and president of a successful business - Lifestone Health Care Assisted Living.

While she has earned plenty of personal and professional success, there have also been some obstacles to overcome. For instance, Dr. Enemuoh shared one of the humorous ways she practiced her English as a new immigrant.

“I already spoke English when I came to the U.S., but I had trouble understanding anyone else because people spoke really fast,” she said.

“So, I watched a lot of Judge Judy to practice hearing and understanding English. A couple of weeks later, I could understand everything!”

Education

Upon moving to the U.S., Enemuoh and her family of origin settled in Madison, Wisconsin. She later moved to the Twin Ports after meeting her husband, Dr. Emmanuel Enemuoh, who is a full professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Interestingly, Emmanuel is also a Nigerian immigrant.

Enemuoh has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW-Platteville, a bachelor’s of nursing degree from the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), and a doctor of nursing practice degree, also from CSS. Additionally, she remains board-certified as an advanced practice registered nurse - in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Lifestone

Enemuoh founded Lifestone Health Care Assisted Living in 2014. It was originally located in Duluth’s Piedmont neighborhood but moved to Proctor in 2016 when a convenient, one-level facility became available.

Lifestone Health Care Assisted Living. Submitted photo.

Lifestone’s motto is “Genuine care for all people,” and its values include being reliable, respectful, and rock-solid. Lifestone is unique in that it is home to only 10 clients – all requiring a high degree of specialized support.

“The most rewarding thing to me is transforming the lives of people who come in during periods of instability,” Enemuoh shared. “They’re looking for a good place to help them stabilize to improve their health. People tell me they’ll wait in line to come here.”

The library at Lifestone Health Care Assisted Living. Submitted photo.

Staff

Among others, Lifestone’s staff roster includes Chiamaka Enemuoh as president and Emmanuel Enemuoh as vice-president – both of whom are also certified as licensed assisted living directors. “Everyone is short-staffed right now, but on our best days, we have between 12 and 15 employees,” Enemuoh shared. “We have a program manager, an administrative assistant, an activities coordinator, and several caregivers, who are either CNAs or PCAs.

“You can’t run a business by yourself, and I want to thank both my present and past employees,” she added. “I also want to acknowledge my husband’s love and support.”

Civic Duties and Volunteer Work

In addition to owning and operating her business, Enemuoh maintains a variety of personal and professional affiliations. She is a member of the Duluth Chamber Board of Directors and its Executive Board. She is the Vice-Chair of both Fuse Duluth and Leadership Duluth – two additional Chamber organizations.

Enemuoh is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and the Board of Directors for the Women’s Business Alliance through the Entrepreneur Fund. Most recently, she became a member of the Entrepreneur Fund’s Stride Committee, where she provides mentorship for other minority business owners. She is also a member of the Duluth Workforce Development Board of Directors.

She noted that, while there aren’t many other Nigerians in the Twin Ports that she is aware of, Duluth is home to a significant African population. Enemuoh belongs to a group called African Sisters Duluth, an African women’s organization.

Enemuoh and her family are also deeply involved with their church – St. Benedict Catholic Church. “Our church community is very important to us,” she noted.

Family and Hobbies

Chiamaka and Emmanuel have two teenage children, a daughter, Adaeze, and a son, Ezechukwu (“Eze”). The family also includes a tank of freshwater fish called Cichlids. The Enemuoh family makes their home in the Duluth Heights neighborhood.

In her spare time, Enemuoh enjoys music, traveling, and spending time with her family. Her eclectic musical tastes span everything from Nigerian music to Beyoncé. “Good music is good music,” she said simply.

She and her family return to Nigeria as often as possible. They also enjoy traveling to other international and domestic locales.

Drs. Chiamaka and Emmanuel, daughter Adaeze and son Eze - wearing Nigerian outfits. Submitted photo.

From Nigeria to Duluth

As one could imagine, moving from Nigeria to Duluth, Minnesota, was a bit of a culture shock. Enemuoh explained some of the significant differences between the two places.

“The relationships are somewhat surprising here,” she explained. “You could be neighbors with someone and not even know it. In Nigeria, you would know the whole neighborhood.

“Also, I had never heard the word depression, and loneliness isn’t really an issue there. In Nigeria, you don’t have time to be alone, and people just have different worries.”

Despite the differences, Enemuoh has found a happy home in Duluth. “Duluth offers a very small community feeling,” she said. “I’m not a big city type of person, and I really like the peace and quiet. It’s a good place to live. You can get to work, and anywhere else, quickly, and there are some really good people here. It’s also a good place to raise kids”

Enemuoh family - Drs. Chiamaka and Emmanuel, daughter Adaeze and son Eze. Submitted photo.

Goals and Dreams

Dr. Enemuoh has some notable goals and dreams she is working toward, both personally and professionally. “I want to have a sustainable business that runs efficiently, is profitable, provides quality service, and where I am able to take care of my employees,” she said.

“And personally, I am working on my work-life balance. It’s a struggle sometimes for entrepreneurs. Mostly, I just want to enjoy life with my family and friends.”

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“Tuning Up” at the DSSO For the 2022-23 Season

“Tuning Up” at the DSSO For the 2022-23 Season

The excitement of attending a live Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (DSSO) concert begins when the orchestra starts tuning up for the performance to follow and when Music Director Dirk Meyer raises his baton and the musical magic begins. Since 1931, when the DSSO was organized, they have been getting “in tune” and envisioning what they see as “a stronger community through the power of music and musician artistry.”

For their 2022-23 season and their 92nd year, the theme of the concerts is Lake Superior, “Gitche Gumee: Our Superior Home.” According to DSSO Executive Director Brandon VanWaeyenberghe, “We are honoring the lake this season through our visual  designs, and you can see the lakeshore and waves with every concert.”

The theme of the 2022-23 DSSO season is “Gitche Gumee: Our Superior Home.” –Submitted photo.

This 2022-23 season will perform seven Masterworks concerts and two Pops concerts. During this season, they will direct their focus to music by black composers. Five of their seven Masterworks concerts include compositions by black composers featuring an amazing variety of music.

From the contemporary voices of Adolphus Hailstork and Jessie Montgomery to the “classics” Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence Price and William Grant Still, these compositions promise to be full of life, energy and beauty.

“This year, the DSSO kicks off a three-year artistic initiative to celebrate the music that is heard all too seldom, music by composers of color, female composers and contemporary American voices,” explained VanWaeyenberghe “These are composers that might be less familiar, but they certainly have important things to say.”

DSSO Executive Director Brandon VanWaeyenberghe. -Submitted photo

To that end, 50 percent of the works across the seven Masterworks concerts will be first performed by the DSSO this season. They look forward to expanding the repertoire for both their musicians and their audiences.

DSSO Concertmaster Erin Aldridge is excited to perform a piece by Austrian composer Erich Korngold, one of the most influential film composers in the golden age of Hollywood cinema.  Aldridge’s teacher, who she studied with up until college and has worked with in many summer camps since, recommended the Korngold piece to her.

Erin Aldridge will perform a piece by Erich Korngo on September 24. -Submitted photo.

“I am a huge film score fan, and I was encouraged by my teacher who said it would be a great piece for me to perform, and to consider for a DSSO concert. I listened, loved it and studied it, and recommended it to Dirk Meyer. I am happy that the piece is in our opening concert this season.”

For their first pop concert on December 3, the DSSO is planning another festival holiday program that combines both traditional works and new tunes, with the DSSO chorus joining the orchestra for several songs and even leading the audience in a sing-a-long.  The DSSO will be partnering with the DECC and the Winter Village Marketing on December 3rd to encourage attendance to their 2 pm Casual Concerts.

The DSSO will have two Casual Concerts this Season - December 3 and February 25 at 2 pm followed by their full main performances at 7 pm

These hour-long concerts allow for a multigenerational audience to enjoy the concert experience in a family-friendly environment. Adult tickets are only $10 and children 17 and younger are free.

In February, audiences will enjoy the music of the most prolific film composer of our time: John Williams, including many of his classics, from “Superman” to “Star Wars”, but also rarities like his whirlwind “Cowboys Overture” and the jazzy Escapades based on music from “Catch Me If You Can.”

The Masterworks IV concert is on February 11, 2023. -Submitted photo.

VanWaeyenberghe noted, “The DSSO acknowledges the past three years have been difficult for so many people due to the regulations and protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The DSSO still exercises caution for its musicians and will encourage the same for audiences. We will not require masking at the start of the season but will continue to evaluate it with the help of medical officials.”

“One of the most visible adjustments we are making in the 2022-23 season is changing our ticket prices and map. We understand that price can be a barrier to participation, and we want to encourage our community to fill the hall to celebrate their neighbors onstage. This change adds 280 $20 seats into the hall, with most of them on the main floor. We have also simplified and reduced single ticket pricing for our Price Levels Two through Four,  he said.

He added, “We also advertised a promotion for first-time subscribers this summer.  This "9 for $90" program is an amazing deal - all nine concerts for $90.  To date, we have added 335 new subscribers with this package, bringing us to over 1,000 subscribers before our first concert. We have been able to completely erase the subscriber loss from the pandemic, and then some!

“For those who do feel they do not know anything about classical music, I would encourage them to attend a concert and just experience live music being performed by their neighbors, who are such talented musicians,” said VanWaeyenberghe.

According to their website, “The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra evokes a mix between the beautiful consistency of classically trained musicians with an accessible experience for new and returning guests. Throughout your experience, you will notice the dedication of the musicians as they complement one another, weaving through a mix of delicate and powerful tempos. The power of music connects us all, and we are excited to welcome you to the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra!”

For more information or to purchase season tickets or tickets to an individual concert, call 218-623-DSSO (3776) or visit their website at dsso.com for a complete list of all 9 concerts.

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Ursa Minor Brewing - Craft Beer On Tap and Much More!

Holly Mattison

Ursa Minor Brewing patio. Photo by Holly Mattison.  

Ursa Minor Brewing - Craft Beer On Tap and Much More!

A local brewery that is all about people, Ursa Minor is a happening place for food, fun, friends and family. Small-batch craft beer is served up in their taproom with wood-fired pizza. Some amenities include a year-round pet-friendly patio, live music every weekend and regular taproom events and games.

The inspiration behind the name was the North Star, found in the Ursa Minor constellation. CEO and Founder Ben Hugus says that craft beer is their “guiding light,” leading them into the ever-growing craft beer community. They even take their logo from the constellation’s “small bear” with a long tail.

Ursa Minor CEO and Founder Ben Hugus. Photo by Holly Mattison

Their website notes, “Our mission at Ursa Minor Brewing is to unite people through incredible craft beer and give people genuine experiences, meaningful connections, and a chance to give back to the community around them.”

On Tap

Hugus said he had dreamed of opening a brewery for a long time. “I started brewing when I was in college when I began experimenting with my own home brews.”

After graduating, he became a math, science and chemistry teacher. “I was still fascinated with the fermentation process and how yeast turns into something amazing. I have always seen that beer brings people together, better than any other beverage, and how a place to gather and enjoy good beer could be a community magnet.”

After moving to Duluth from Marquette, Michigan, Ben searched for a space and the financing needed to open his own brewery. Finding a “home” in the Lincoln Park Craft District, he opened Ursa Minor in September of 2018. He and his family, wife Sarah, and three young children call the Northland home now as well.

Ursa Minor Brewing taproom. –Photo by Holly Mattison

“There is a real entrepreneurial spirit in Lincoln Park. We feel very welcome and supported by our neighbors here,” Hugus noted.

Obstacles of the pandemic hitting and then a fire closed them down briefly, but they forged ahead and now are one of the most popular places in Lincoln Park.

Ursa Minor offers 18-22 varieties of their beer on tap at any given time, with a style and flavor to suit every taste in the categories of hoppy, sour, dark and light. “We promise to find a beer that you will like. Our diversity is our strength,” Hugus said.

When asked to choose his favorite beer, he said, “That is like picking my favorite child! I think every beer has a time and place to be enjoyed.”

Photo by Holly Mattison.

For non-alcoholic beverages, they have a rotating tap of Duluth Kombucha, Uffda Kombucha, Northern Soda Co. Root Beer, and non-alcoholic cream ale, as well as 12- ounce cans of Superior Switchel.

Ursa Minor also sells their beers all over Wisconsin and Minnesota in liquor stores, hometown bars and restaurants. They describe themselves as “a proudly independent, self-distributing craft brewery.”

Eats, Treats and More

For a food complement to their beer, Ursa Minor fires up their wood-fired oven for their made-from-scratch pizza with fresh basil (grown in their own garden), house-made sauce, Yker Acres meats, and a potpourri of veggies and other toppings. Sandwich lovers will enjoy fresh paninis with meats, cheeses, and other fresh ingredients.

Ursa Minor's wood-fired pizza oven. -Photo from Facebook page.

Other yummy treats on the menu include Bear Bread with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, and oregano on their home-made pizza crust; traditional large German pretzels from Duluth’s Best Bread, served with beer cheese and mustard; Helstrom Farm Beef Sticks; Firestick Pretzels with a mild cayenne kick; and Three Mad Poppers small batch popcorn.

For a cool treat for dessert, patrons can enjoy assorted flavors from the popular Love Creamery.

“We try wherever possible to use locally sourced products,” said Hugus. “We think that is being a responsible member of the community and that it is always better to support neighbors by keeping dollars local.”

Hugus noted that they believe they get better raw goods locally and that since local ingredients do not need to travel as far, they are often fresher.

 Patrons can fill growlers as long as they are stainless steel with the Federal Government warning. Ursa Minor also sells their branded glass growlers and 16-ounce standard cans to-go.

Their vast assortment of branded merchandise includes hats, shirts, hoodies, onesies,  glassware (steins and long-stemmed tegu glasses), socks, pitchers, tumblers, dog toys, stickers, candles and more, for sale at the Brewery or online.

Ursa Minor merchandise is available at the brewery or online. –Photo from Ursa Minor Brewery Facebook page.

Hugus is proud to support the community wherever it can. They have monthly “round-up” partners each month. Customers can round up their tab to the nearest dollar and donate that extra change to designated organizations, such as the Superior Hiking Trail and the Great Lakes Aquarium. Ursa Minor also puts together a team for the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Superior.

Let the Good Times Roll

For lovers of live music, Ursa Minor offers a variety of styles from local artists, ready to entertain on weekends while patrons enjoy brews and food. Oktoberfest, running September 22-25, is an exciting event on their annual calendar.

They offer a wide variety of fun activities, including trivia nights, bingo nights, yoga classes, a variety of clinics such as Ladies Bike Fit, painting, tie-dying and more.

People can also rent the covered patio area for their party or group. Contact [email protected] for more details.

Keeping all the good times rolling are the Brewery’s 44 employees. Hugus is most proud of his hard-working team and works to give all employees at Ursa Minor Brewing livable and dependable wages and a great work environment.

An invitation from their Facebook page reads, “The patio is calling. And so is delicious beer. And wood-fired pizzas. And paninis. And . . . what we're saying is, you should probably drop by for a visit.”

For more information, visit their website at ursaminorbrewing.com

Tap Room hours are Sunday-Thursday 11-10 and Friday-Saturday 11-11.

 

 

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Photographer Sandi Larson hikes Duluth – Every. Single. Day.

Photographer Profile Series - Sandi Larson
Get Your Daily Dose of Adventure With Hike Duluth

Sandi Larson and her hiking partner Koda, in Hartley Park. –Submitted photo.

It takes a lot of dedication to go hiking Every. Single. Day. But that’s what Sandi Larson of Hike Duluth does. And she wants to include you in her adventures.

In addition to working full-time, volunteering prolifically, and caring for her home and family, Larson operates Hike Duluth. In this small, social media-focused business, she posts photos and videos of her daily hikes.

Some of her specialties include views of Lake Superior, photos of flowers, wildlife, rivers, waterfalls, bridges, and “iconic Duluth images,” including Enger Tower and the Aerial Lift Bridge.

Photo was taken from Enger Tower Park. –Submitted photo.

The Aerial Lift Bridge lit teal for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. –Submitted Photo.

“I started Hike Duluth in 2012,” Larson explained. “It was my introduction to photography. It started out as something I did for fun, and then I got encouragement from other people. I was taking photos because I saw pretty things, and I thought I’d create a Facebook page. I thought, ‘Not many people realize that there are so many great hiking spots in Duluth; maybe I can inspire others to be more active and explore our great city.”

Larson hopes that her work will appeal to you whether you are a local, a tourist, or someone who has moved away and misses the area. Folks can choose to simply view and appreciate her photos or step it up a notch and join her on one of her daily hikes. She also sells an annual photo calendar, where she assembles some of her best images from the prior year.

A Full Life

Larson works full-time as the Director for the Women’s Business Alliance, a program of the Entrepreneur Fund. She also volunteers her time for the Giant’s Ridge Ski Patrol, Grandma’s Marathon, Rock Hill Community Church, and she serves on the Board of the Empowered Women’s Network of the Northland.

Despite her packed schedule, Larson never misses the opportunity for a hike. “I’m an early riser,” she explained. “I’ll get up at 4:30 am to catch a sunrise. I’m usually on the trail by 6 am, if not earlier, and I usually go back out in the evenings, too. And I hike year-round, 365 days a year. It doesn’t matter if it’s -20 and snowy. I’ll use my snowshoes.”

Larson, who is originally from Babbitt, Minnesota, moved here to attend college at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) and decided to stay and make Duluth her home. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in organizational leadership and community engagement.

Larson’s husband, Ron Larson, works for Amsoil. The couple has an adult son, Ben, currently attending UMD. The Larsons have a mixed-breed rescue dog (and enthusiastic hiking partner!) named Koda and two cats, Tig and Nico.

Photography

Hike Duluth began as fun yet modest hobby. Larson never really expected many people to see her work. But once she built it, the people came – in droves.

“I never told anybody about my page,” she noted. “I just waited to see who would find me. Eventually, Jerry Thoreson – Managing Editor of Destination Duluth, found Hike Duluth and asked if they could share a picture I had posted. I went from 350 followers to 700 followers overnight after Destination Duluth shared the picture.”

The Duluth Canal North Pier Lighthouse was featured on the Destination Duluth Facebook page. –Submitted Photo

Women Hike Duluth

In 2018, the City of Duluth’s Parks and Rec Department asked Larson if she would help coordinate women’s hikes. She said yes, and this has led to an ongoing partnership. It also prompted her to start a private Facebook page called Women Hike Duluth, which is open only to women to coordinate hikes with each other and share their hiking adventures.

Larson usually hits the trail solo or with her dog, Koda, during her hikes. But, when a Women Hike Duluth event is coordinated, there can be up to 40 participants.

Women Hike Duluth currently has over 2,600 members,” Larson said. “This includes people from around Duluth, the region, and the whole country. And, members include those residents, people moving to the area, visitors, and people who used to live here.”

Cool Spots

Ask Sandi Larson about her favorite places to hike; she simply can’t contain her passion for the activity, along with all of Duluth’s amazing venues.

“It’s so hard to pick a favorite!” she exclaimed. “I love the Ely’s Peak area, Spirit Mountain, and Kingsbury Woods. I also enjoy the Piedmont trails, the quarry, and Tischer Creek. The antenna farm trail has great views, and you can see Bentleyville at night in the winter.”

“I also love Chester Park, Bagley at UMD, Hawk’s Ridge, Lester Park, and Lincoln Park,” she added. “Sometimes I go to Superior, up the shore, and I also hike wherever I go on vacation, too. The main thing is that I post a picture each day. I rarely allow myself to post photos of hikes that didn’t happen today.”

Winter wonderland on the Lincoln Park/Miller Creek Hiking Trail. –Submitted photo.

Advice

For Larson, photography is not about waiting until you have sophisticated camera equipment. It’s about starting where you are and utilizing what you have.

“I started taking pictures with an iPhone and have since switched to an Android Galaxy phone,” she noted. “People have told me I have a good eye and should get a big camera, but that would take the fun out of it. I say, use what you have.”

And, when it comes to hiking, her advice is similar. “Just go out and explore. There are many fun trails with so much to offer – everything from flat to challenging terrain. You can even hike with me, and I’ll show you some great spots.”

#befromDuluth

Enticing people to consider moving to the area is a huge motivation for Larson and a rewarding part of operating Hike Duluth and Women Hike Duluth.

“One of the things I find most fulfilling is that there are people who follow my page because they are thinking of moving here, and it helped motivate them,” she said. “That’s a thrill for me.”

To stay informed of Larson’s daily hikes, please connect with the Hike Duluth Facebook page, or request membership for the Women Hike Duluth group. Additionally, every November, Larson sells a photo calendar.

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Authentic Neapolitan Pizza at Vitta Pizza

Vitta Pizza

Mamma Mia!
Authentic Neapolitan Pizza at Vitta Pizza
In Canal Park and soon on Central Entrance

Ooey, gooey, crispy, cheesy, spicy . . .  everyone has their favorite style of pizza, crusts and toppings. Vitta Pizza brings diners back in history to Naples, Italy, and the storied origins of Italy’s contribution to this worldwide, popular food.

Owned by Duluth natives Brad and Christie Erickson and located in Duluth’s Canal Park, they will soon have another Vitta Pizza location on Central Entrance, also featuring their classic Neapolitan fare.

The menu for the Central Entrance will have exactly the same items as the Canal Park. “We wanted to keep things simple and not change what customers are already loving and craving” Christie said. The Ericksons anticipate that the customer base for the new Central Entrance restaurant may be more locals than tourists. ​"We are most excited to offer the first & only drive up window for pizza in the Northland.  Simply order online & receive notification when your order is ready for pick up."

Vitta Pizza is family-owned by Brad and Christie Erickson who were born, raised and live in Duluth with their children Luisa and Jaeger.  Photo from vittapizza.com

Neapolitan is a style of pizza with a chewy crust, made with crushed tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. "Our oven is completely fired by wood & can cook a pizza in 97 seconds due to the intense heat" says Christie. "Our new oven also came directly from Italy for the Central Entrance restaurant and will deliver that same unique wood-fired flavor,” said Brad.

The 1000º woodfire oven at Vitta Pizza. Submitted photo

The Neapolitan pizza was “invented” in the late 19th century, featuring its classic wood-fired crust. In 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples. They were served a pizza named in honor of the queen whose colors mirrored those of the Italian flag: red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil leaves). This is what is now known as the classic wood-fired baked Neapolitan pizza today.

“We also import many of our ingredients from Italy, including Double Zero Caputo flour, tomatoes, and olive oil. helping us to maintain the true Neapolitan flavor,” she added.

For eleven years, locals and tourists have made the Canal Park restaurant a favorite family dining experience, enjoying its creative menu of ten different 9” specialty pizza options.

The Canal Park Vitta Pizza is located at 307 Canal Park Drive. Submitted photo.

Patrons can also create their own pizza with a choice of 27 different toppings, including arugula, artichokes, mushrooms, peppers, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, black, kalamata and green olives, and a variety of meats, including Italian sausage, ham, pepperoni, prosciutto and salami (soppressata).

“A diners’ favorite and one of my personal favorites is the ‘Tomasso,’” said Christie. It features prosciutto, goat cheese, garlic, crushed red pepper and arugula.

The Tamasso pizza from Vitta Pizza. Submitted photo.

Kiddos can choose their own 5” pizza, selecting from the Sophia, cheese pizza; the Jago, pepperoni; and the Luisa, sausage. Luisa and Jago are the names of Brad and Christie’s children.

According to Brad, diners can add to their pizza selection with garlic breadsticks, an antipasto platter and four different salads. “People love the Caesar salad with the house-made Caesar dressing we also sell by the bottle.”

Dessert lovers will be excited about the refreshing ice cream and ice cream sandwich options made fresh locally by Love Creamery. Christie said, “We especially love working with them locally for our delicious dessert choices.”

In addition, Vitta has a wide selection of local craft beers and traditional Italian wine, such as chianti.

Patrons can choose from the curbside pickup, take-out, dine-in, and online ordering and delivery from Food Dudes. “We are​most excited ​to offer the convenience of the drive-up window on Central Entrance and introduce more of the Northland to Neapolitan Style Pizza," Christie said.

Vitta Pizza's new location on Central Entrance will feature a drive-thru pick-up window. Submitted photo.

The decor at both locations has a kicky sixties European vibe, with neon signage and a brightly colored mural of Sophia Loren painted by local artist Brian Olson on the side of the Central Entrance building. Each place also has an authentic Vespa and other decorator items that look straight out of an Italian movie.

The Central Entrance Corridor is a great spot for Vitta Pizza’s new building, perfect for residents up the hill and in Hermantown to enjoy a delicious and unique pizza experience.

Visit their website for menu, hours and to order at vittapizza.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures Await with Day Tripper of Duluth

Day Tripper of Duluth

Duluth and the surrounding region are chock-full of natural beauty. And each of our four distinct seasons offers different options when it comes to excursions. Whether by foot, kayak, canoe, bike, snowshoe, or ski, there are adventures to be had - and amazing sights to be seen - around every corner.

But sometimes there are adventures we haven’t tried, for one reason or another. Perhaps we don’t own a kayak or canoe. Or maybe we don’t know how to mountain bike safely. This is where Day Tripper of Duluth comes in. “Our goal is to continue to provide our customers with the safest and best outdoor experience possible,” co-owner Jake Boyce shared.

History

Day Tripper, which was founded in 2013, describes itself as an “outdoor guiding service,” offering safe, guided adventures of all kinds. All necessary equipment is provided with each package.

The business is owned and operated by two skilled guides, Jake Boyce and Matti Erpestad, who each possess a veritable alphabet of certifications and skills. Interestingly, the two are also brothers-in-law. Together with their team of five additional guides, the Day Tripper team can lead your next expedition or even teach you a specific new skill.

Head guide and co-owner, Matti Erpestad. –Photo submitted.

Day Tripper’s primary demographic is tourists who want to get out on Lake Superior. However, local residents who want to “show our area off” to visitors are another important part of their customer base.

Adventures are open to all ages and abilities, from beginner to advanced. “Our youngest kayaker was two years old, and our oldest was 91,” Boyce noted.

Offerings

Day Tripper does the majority of its business in the summer. However, they offer cold-weather adventures, too. “We operate by weather, not by the calendar,” Boyce said.

Guided options available through Day Tripper include hiking, private mountain bike lessons and clinics, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, fat-tire biking, and snowshoeing. Boyce explained some of the most popular choices.

“Our most popular, by far, is a kayaking trip on the North Shore by Split Rock. People can choose a 2 or 4-hour excursion, and we see the cliffs, the lighthouse, and a shipwreck as long as the conditions allow. We partner with Split Rock and the Minnesota Historical Society to obtain general admission passes for the museum and grounds.”

Kayaking near Split Rock Lighthouse is the most popular tour Day Tripper of Duluth Offers - Submitted Photo

Another popular choice is the Glensheen mansion paddle, taking place on Lake Superior, on the shores of Glensheen. At 90 minutes long, it’s a great option for beginners.

Private mountain biking lessons are another offering. Each lesson is tailored to the specific rider and the skills that the individual or group wants to learn. Whether you’re just starting out, or have been riding for many years, a lesson may be a great option to make you a happier rider.

Private Mountain Biking excursions for all skill levels are offered with Day Tripper of Duluth. –Submitted .

A voyageur canoe trip is another well-utilized offering. “The boat is a replica of canoes used by voyageurs in the region during the fur trade,” Boyce noted. “It can hold up to ten adults.”

Voyageur canoes can hold up to ten people. –Submitted photo

Day Tripper adventures take place at a variety of locations, but Boyce advised they are always subject to change. “We don’t have any truly set locations for any of our tours,” he noted. “It really depends on the day, since Lake Superior does what it wants.” Exact departure points are emailed at the time of a tour booking but may change based on weather.

Overnight excursions are also available upon request.

Safety

Guest safety is of primary concern. “We give our guides complete control of the final say on all tours,” Boyce explained. “They are very skilled and good judges of conditions, approaching weather, and group skill level. It is important to note that we try to see certain highlights on each tour, but sometimes, due to conditions, it may not be possible,” he added.
Customers are provided with PFDs (personal flotation devices) for each water-based excursion. Wetsuits are also provided, and on most kayak tours, required – at the guide’s discretion.

Personal Life

Jake Boyce is himself a native Duluthian. He attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he earned an undergraduate degree in German with a minor in business. He has always loved the outdoors. “I like to mountain bike, ski - uphill and downhill – and, when conditions allow, surf,” he noted. “I enjoy playing outside in general.”
Boyce and his wife, Laura Francis, have two children: Geoffrey (6), and Charlie (4). The family also has a Vizsla named Klaus.

Founder and co-owner, Jake Boyce. –Submitted Photo

Boyce juggles working more than full-time with Day Tripper, along with his other careers as a paramedic and working in sales and service at Ski Hut. “I decided I never wanted to sit behind a desk,” he noted with a chuckle, explaining his career choices.

Rewarding

Getting people into the outdoors is a fulfilling endeavor for Boyce and his team. Among other perks, Boyce enjoys watching mountain bikers’ skills progress throughout a lesson, providing employment in the area, and just being outside.
“The most fun thing for me is to be able to provide employment for our guides so they too can share their passion of playing outside,” he said. I’m also super proud of our customer reviews on social media, Trip Advisor, and Google.”

Day Tripper of Duluth's April 1 whale-watching post produces smiles as some are fooled into thinking Lake Superior has whales. –Submitted photo

Boyce enjoys keeping a keen sense of humor about his profession. Every year on April 1, they get inquiries about whale-watching on Lake Superior after posting the photo below.

Day Tripper is a home-based business with no public storefront. Therefore, all excursions are booked online. Please visit daytripperofduluth.com to learn more and book an adventure.

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Keefography Adventures on the North Shore

John Keefover

Destination Duluth
Photographer Profile Series

Landscape Photographer John Keefover 

Dazzling Northern Lights, crashing Lake Superior waves, tranquil waterfalls, dramatic lighting over a lonely lighthouse, ethereal winter sea smoke, and a veritable panorama of the best of the North Shore in all its splendor . . . Landscape photographer, ultralight backpacker, guide, teacher, and wilderness advocate, John Keefover (Keef) has taken awe-inspiring photos of all these vistas and more.

A fierce Lake Superior storm with hurricane-force gales generated waves that crashed more than 100 feet high. Photo by John Keefover

“I feel that Duluth and the surrounding area are the perfect locations for landscape photography, where I can combine my passion for photography and backpacking,” John said.

Growing up in a military family, they lived in North Carolina and Spain before moving to Hibbing. Keefover has loved taking pictures from the time he was in middle school, through his education at Hibbing High School, and with classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. After moving to Duluth in 2015, Keef started his small photography business in May of 2019.

A self-portrait of John Keefover

He most loves doing landscape photography, explaining, “No matter how many times you go to a location, it is always different. With all kinds of lighting to see—sunrise, sunset, cloud cover, rainbows, lightning, each photographer will view landscapes and take photos different from any other.”

Besides taking gorgeous photos, he loves writing trip reports and journal entries and even filming vlogs. He says that his blog writing really helps to capture those moments in time out on the trail to enhance people’s understanding of his experiences.

Through his social media, people can view his itineraries and follow along with him on extended trips or shorter adventures, including trips to the Porcupine Mountains, Isle Royale, and the BWCA

Keef is most known for his Night Sky Milky Way photographs and his waterfall photography, “I love shooting long exposures, especially at night. When I am out camping, my camera gear is more than a third of the weight of my bag, which is usually around 20 pounds,” he explained.

His biggest expedition was in June when he hiked all 310 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) from the Wisconsin border, through Duluth, and up the North Shore to the Canadian border.

This trip also helped to raise funds for the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and their “Superior View Hike,” bringing 2,400 kids out on the SHT every year, teaching them stewardship, ecology, and outdoor education.

A once-in-6800-year photo

Describing one of his all-time favorite photos, he said one evening, he was at a friend’s cabin sitting around the campfire. “The photo is of the Comet NEOWISE inside of the Northern Lights and reflected in the waters of Lake Vermillion,” he said.

Comet NEOWISE inside of the Northern Lights. Photo by John Keefover

He blogged, “It didn’t last very long, but it was such a cool experience and a once-in-a-lifetime shot with the comet that comes around every 6,800 years! It’s also a shot that I didn’t plan at all; it was pure luck.”

Keef also does brand photography content for a variety of businesses, including Bent Paddle, Ursa Minor, Wild State Cider, Duluth Cider, and a variety of other products. He notes how important it is to have content and branding photographs that stand out in the rapidly growing online marketplaces,

Doing concert photos of musicians, bands, and venues is another genre of photography that captures John’s imagination. He also works for the Great Lakes Gear Exchange, selling used outdoor gear at a consignment shop. He joked that he gets a chance to scope out the equipment he might want to buy before it goes on sale at the shop.

He has had his work published in the Lake Superior Magazine, The Lake and Company, Northern Wilds and on the Destination Duluth Facebook and Instagram social media. He noted, “Destination Duluth is a great resource for photographers and artists, and gives me another way to interact with the community. I have also enjoyed the Destination Duluth photographers’ get-togethers.” Jerry Thoreson, Managing Director for Destination Duluth said, "John has quickly become one of our top five contributing photographers. Since 2020, his photos have been viewed a verified 2.8 million times on our Facebook page," Thoreson added,  "plus probably a million more impressions on our Instagram channel."

Lightning was captured on the north pier of the Duluth shipping canal. Photo by John Keefover

Another big venture for John is Arrowhead Expeditions, which he founded with his friend Justin Ridlon. They offer photography expeditions in the Arrowhead Region of Northern Minnesota. The trips are for all levels of photographers, including beginners looking for a fun experience and hoping to learn more about their cameras to experienced photographers looking to shoot new locations along the North Shore. Some of the locations will require a several-mile hike, and others are more easily accessible near a parking lot. The Arrowhead Expeditions website includes opportunities to subscribe to a newsletter for information about future expeditions.

Learn more about John Keefover at his website. To view his most popular photos and purchase prints, click here.

He is also on Instagram: instagram.com/keefography on Facebook: facebook.com/keefography, and on YouTube here.

 

 

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North Shore Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

The Wisconsin Point Lighthouse Tour. Submitted photo.  

North Shore Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
Connecting People to the Waterways since 2012

If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on Lake Superior, stand up paddleboarding provides an unbeatable experience. North Shore SUP – a full-service outfitter offering instruction, guided tours, and equipment rental – wants to help you get started. Their fitting slogan is, “Connecting people to the waterways, one paddle at a time.”

The Superior-based business is owned and operated by Heather Holmes and Garrett Russell, two Twin Ports “transplants” who have fallen in love with Lake Superior and the entire Twin Ports region. The couple’s 12-year-old son, Brecken, also loves the sport and regularly helps out with the family business.

Stand up paddleboarding is appropriate for all ages, ranging from small children to senior citizens. Your dog can even join in the fun!

Heather Holmes and Garrett Russell and their son Brecken - Submitted photo.

Backgrounds

Despite their familiarity with our area, neither Holmes nor Russell is originally from the region. Russell was born and raised in Colorado. He worked as a ski instructor and river guide during high school and college and earned an undergraduate degree in outdoor education. In 2018, he earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and later, yet another degree (an adjunct to his master’s) - in administration - in 2021.

Holmes’ family of origin moved frequently, ultimately ending up in the Twin Cities area. As a teenager and young woman, Holmes became interested in yoga and alternative medicine. She is certified to teach yoga and also has a degree in nursing.

Interestingly, the couple met in Alaska. “I moved to Anchorage, and Heather was running the hostel where I was staying,” Russell said. After learning that they were expecting their son, the couple moved to Minnesota to be closer to Holmes’ family.

Why Paddleboarding?

When deciding to start their own business, stand up paddleboarding became a clear choice for this outdoorsy couple. “The versatility of the board was a huge draw,” Holmes said. “It’s just a really fun sport that you can do on all different waterways.”

“Paddleboarding is an incredibly fun and unique sport,” Russell added. “I had just graduated from UMD and we were somewhat familiar with the waterways up here. We realized we had the opportunity to move here, and, ultimately, we created the first paddleboard-specific business on Lake Superior.”

Beginnings

Upon relocating to the Twin Ports, the couple recognized that something was missing. “When we moved to the area, we noticed a huge lack of opportunity for the public to get out on the water,” Holmes said. “We really saw a big void.”

Holmes and Russell created North Shore SUP in 2012. Their initial home base was the bay side of Park Point, with … humble … accommodations. “During our first year in business, we hauled all our gear in a minivan,” Russell shared with a laugh. “We were literally the van down by the river.”

North Shore SUP later moved operations to Superior’s Barker’s Island in 2017. “Barker’s Island is more sheltered from the wind, with lots of protected inlets,” Russell explained. “And it’s right across from the highway, making it very accessible for our customers.”

The couple has added new equipment and inventory as the business grew. They transported their boards and paddles in an enclosed trailer for many years. They are pleased to announce that they recently added a permanent shop to their enterprise, featuring a front desk, changing area, and gear/merchandise sales.

Options

North Shore SUP offers a variety of adventures for its customers. A popular choice is to complete a full circumnavigation around Barker’s Island. Finishers have the privilege of signing their name on the inside of the front office door.

Other options include full moon and evening paddles, along with the Wisconsin Point lighthouse tour. North Shore SUP also offers “paddle parties” for birthdays and other special events. There are ice cream social paddles, and summer camps for kids.

Great views are always a part of SUP. Submitted photo.

Holmes also teaches paddleboard yoga, and has brought on another yoga instructor, Katie Swanson, owner of Swan Song Yoga, to assist. Here, the group paddles fifteen minutes to a special location on the eastern side of Barker’s Island, featuring a full sand bottom. The boards are then anchored, and participants practice yoga on these floating platforms.

But, for those adventurous clients who are up for a challenge, North Shore SUP is always willing to offer custom paddle trips. For instance, paddle adventures on the Brule River and Wisconsin’s South Shore are a few options that have been added over their ten years in business.

Gear

Paddleboards are quite different from surfboards. For example, they are ten to fifteen times more buoyant than a surfboard and longer and wider, making them specially designed for standing. Softer boards are also available, which are helpful for people with joint pain or injuries.

North Shore SUP offers a variety of equipment customers can use during a tutorial or rent for an independent excursion – from boards and paddles to floating toys, wet suits, booties, and dry bags. There are general recreational boards, as well as racing, touring, whitewater, and surf-specific boards. Children’s boards are among the shortest, at eight feet long. The longest board, intended for touring, is sixteen feet. Board width is typically between 28 and 38 inches.

Paddleboards are constructed of a few different materials. There are inflatable boards made of military-grade rubber; these are a great option for paddling the Brule River. Other boards are made of fiberglass epoxy, bio resins, and closed-cell recycled foam. Most of the boards weigh between 25 – 30 pounds.

Many of North Shore SUP’s boards were purchased from the Glide company out of Salt Lake City, Utah. “We seek out companies that stand by the values we believe in,” Russell said. “Glide’s components are made in the U.S, and everything is recycled.”

When it comes to paddles, the sizes and materials also vary. Each customer is fitted with a paddle appropriate for their size and type of adventure. Wooden paddles are good for efficiency and durability, while carbon paddles are good for touring. Fiberglass paddles are helpful for river paddling. Many of North Shore SUP’s paddles are sourced from Northwest River Supply, based in Moscow, Idaho.

Safety

Before a customer ever steps foot on a board, plenty of safety precautions and instructions are exercised. Safety is a top priority for Russell and Holmes.

Russell, who is certified to teach through the American Canoe Association, walks participants through the basics of the equipment, along with entering/exiting the board from the safety of the Barker’s Island dock. Both Holmes and Russell have first aid and CPR training, and Russell is also OEC-certified (outdoor emergency care), through his ski patrol.

Each paddleboarder is fitted with a PFD (personal flotation device) and a leash connecting their board to their ankle. And, dogs are fitted with a CFD – canine flotation device.

In addition to learning techniques, boarders learn navigation, including how shipping lanes operate. Intro lessons also teach participants how to climb back on the board if they fall off. And while adults can choose to paddle without a guide, children are never left alone.

Training on technique and safety is provided. Submitted photo

Season + Off-Season

North Shore SUP’s season is very short – they are open from June 1st – the end of August. The off-season marks a return to Ogden, Utah for Holmes and Russell. In the non-paddleboard season, Holmes works part-time as a substitute teacher and barista. Russell works as a ski coach, behavior coach, and adventure coordinator for children.

Despite splitting their time between locations, Holmes and Russell absolutely love the Northland. “Not being originally from here, it’s just so unique,” Russell said. “Until you’ve seen what Lake Superior actually looks like, it’s just a picture on a map. It’s truly like an ocean. The community is great here, too. People embrace being outside year-round, and it’s a good place for a healthy, active lifestyle.”

“Duluth and Superior have a very nice, small-town feel,” said Holmes. “There are community activities happening year-round, and we have a very high quality of life here.”

For more information, please visit duluthsup.com. Potential paddlers are also encouraged to call or text North Shore SUP at (218) 343-1308.

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