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

#befromDuluth

Hansi Johnson

Mission

Destination Duluth is a collaborative online resource dedicated to educating and inspiring the
public about the beauty of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the City's positive growth.

Destination Duluth: Accomplishing our mission

Dennis O'Hara

 

At Destination Duluth, our mission is simple:

We want to grow Duluth.

Many folks, “weekend warriors” if you will, travel to our fine city to escape long commutes, rush hour traffic, and suburban sprawl. They arrive as tourists, spending a weekend or two hiking our magnificent trails, catching a live musical performance, or sipping one of Duluth’s locally crafted beers or spirits.

Perhaps over the course of a single weekend they intuit what we locals have always known --- that Duluth is a treasure, a sparkling jewel in the crown of Minnesota’s Great Northwoods. From the deep azure mystery and inherent adventure found in Lake Superior to our world class arts and cultural scene, Duluth simply has it all.

Fully rested and rejuvenated, many visitors discover that their hearts belong in Duluth, and never want to leave this magical place. Have you had this feeling? Have you felt drawn to our city? Have you considered making Duluth your home?

Our goal is to help you do that.

Enter Destination Duluth

Co-founded in 2013 by resident Duluthians Branden Robinson, Christopher Swanson, and Tom Livingston, “Destination Duluth was created to fill the need of educating the public about the qualities of Duluth as a ‘destination for life,’” Livingston shares.

Robinson echoes this intent, adding, “We believe Duluth to be a world-class community, thanks to its natural, social and economic assets.”

Simply put, Destination Duluth is here to showcase all of the amazing things that make Duluth … well, Duluth. It's a phenomenal place to live, and we want to share it with the world. Through a wealth of stories written by local residents and accompanied by amazing photography, we hope to inspire you to become a Duluthian yourself.

How Destination Duluth Can Help You Come Home

With an abundance of great jobs, a healthy work-life balance, and natural beauty to spare, we are ready to achieve our mission of recruiting the next generation of Duluthians --- which could include you. Here are three ways we can help as you contemplate following your heart home to Duluth.

Step 1 Spend some time perusing this website and our Facebook pageDestination Duluth is chock full of stories such as “Why We Live Here,” along with insider information about Duluth’s parks and recreational opportunities, thriving arts scene, burgeoning reputation as a craft beer mecca, and more. Here, you’ll find many reasons why we love living here, and think you will, too.

We’ll also share event details, tips for navigating the city, and secrets only a local could tell you. And, there are photos, loads of spectacular photos, highlighting Duluth in all its glory.

Step 2 Wondering if a life-changing move is really viable? We share success stories, proving that it is definitely possible to take the plunge and relocate. We hope to inspire you through features like “Coming Home,” which highlight stories of people who have already taken the leap and relocated to Duluth, and are living a life they love.

Step 3 And when you are ready to make your move, you’ll find here at Destination Duluth great local resources. This is where you’ll find guidance on the nitty-gritty details of moving here, including job-hunting, home-buying, outdoor adventures, activities for kids, and plenty more.

Duluth’s Future and You

We at Destination Duluth truly believe that Duluth’s best and brightest days are ahead. And we want you to join us here while the rest of the world catches up.   

“Duluth has a wonderful history which must be remembered and celebrated,” Robinson shares. “But there is a new chapter unfolding before us, one that celebrates the past, yet embraces opportunities for the future. The first step is welcoming and encouraging people to plant their roots right here in the Zenith City.”

Duluth can definitely be a destination for life --- YOUR destination for life.

Are you ready to #befromDuluth?

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Home Buying, Duluth-Style

Anna Hansmeyer

 

So, you’ve finally decided to join us, and #befromDuluth? Excellent choice! Buying a home here automatically gives you some skin in the game, ensuring a deep personal and financial investment in this amazing community.

Today, we talk to local Re/Max real estate agent Brok Hansmeyer. With over ten years’ experience as an agent and a Duluthian himself, Hansmeyer is a great resource for home buying in the Zenith City. He fills us in on some unique facts and figures to keep in mind when purchasing your own little slice of paradise … right here in Duluth!

Old Stock

Hansmeyer shares that many of Duluth’s homes are old. We’re talking early 1900’s, and sometimes even late 1800’s. But, that’s one of the things Duluthians love most.

“Duluth has a super old housing stock,” Hansmeyer says. “Most of the houses here are three bedroom traditionals, with hardwood floors and loads of character. There are certainly brand-new homes, but that generally means a price tag of $300,000+, which is on the higher side of sale prices for this area.”

While this vintage aesthetic often clashes with the modern trends shown on HGTV, such as open floor plans and massive kitchens, it’s classic Duluth. If you’re into old-school character and charm, Duluth is a goldmine of opportunity. You can snap up a fixer upper special on the cheap, renovate it up yourself, and live happily ever after in your neighborhood of choice. 

And, speaking of neighborhoods …

East Side, West Side, Lakeside, Hillside

Duluth has an interesting layout, with each part of town offering its own unique appeal. Stretching from Fond du Lac and Gary out west to Lakeside and Lester Park in the east, Duluth also spans both up and downhill.

The hillside is sprinkled with Piedmont and the Heights, cascading sharply downtown, finally landing on the sandy shores of Park Point. Our city has even been referred to as the “San Francisco of the Midwest” due to its unique water-to-hilltop topography.

While Lakeside, Woodland, Chester Park, Congdon, Hunter’s Park and Kenwood are pretty much always booming, there are plenty of other cool neighborhoods on the rise. “Right now, there is a lot of buzz about Lincoln Park, with its new craft district,” Hansmeyer says. “If I were to bet on the most revitalization and potential for increase in value over the next ten years, it’d be Lincoln Park.”

Neighborhood Attractions

How can you possibly pick a favorite, when they’re ALL so amazing?! At Destination Duluth, we love them all, but here are some specific enticements to keep in mind.

Duluth’s Far West neighborhoods (Norton Park, Gary, Smithville, and Fond du Lac) are attractive due to their accessibility to the St. Louis River, Jay Cooke State Park, and the Munger Trail. The Lake Superior Zoo is also found on the West side.

Lakeside, Lester Park and Congdon out East all provide super convenient access to the Lakewalk, Brighton Beach, Seven Bridges Road, Tischer Creek and Lester Park.

Piedmont and the Heights are known for their amazing views of the hillside and the Big Lake. Think amazing sunrises and sunsets.

And on Park Point, life is literally a beach! Enough said.

All provide quick access to the excitement of downtown or a spin up the hill to run some errands.

Prices

As of this writing, you can buy a quality home in Duluth for anywhere from $100k to well over a million bucks. Lakeside homes, for instance, range from about $125,000 to $240,000, with higher price points in the Hawk Ridge development.

In Chester Park, $110,000 to $160,000 will get you a solid three bedroom, one bath traditional. And, in Woodland, the range is about $150,000 - $225,000.

Resources

Hansmeyer shares that his favorite resources for Duluth real estate include Realtor.com, Trulia.com, and Zillow, featuring the trendy value-tracking “Zillow Zestimate.” Agentfinder.com is a great referral-based site to help you find an agent.

Bottom line: no matter what neighborhood you’re considering, you’re golden. “Duluth is so accessible,” Hansmeyer says. “You can get downtown to work or play within about ten or fifteen minutes, whether you’re coming from Denfeld, Lakeside, or over the hill.” Duluth is filled with great neighborhoods! 

Your New City: By the Numbers 

Your area code: (218)

Your zip code: 55802, 55803, 55804, 55805, 55806, 55807, 55808, 55810, 55811, or 55812

Your Mayor: Emily Larson

Your Time Zone: CST

Duluth population: 86,283

Duluth record temps: -41 and 93

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Whatever Your Career Aspirations, This Organization Can Help

https://www.northforce.org/

 

Ah, work. Whether you love it or loathe it, earning money is just one of those things you gotta do. While many of us dread the daily grind, work becomes much more bearable when you’re doing something you’re good at, or, dare I say, actually enjoy.

Today, we’ll introduce you to NORTHFORCE – a regional workforce development organization helping people become happily employed in the Northland. Whether you’re relocating to Duluth, or are a long-time resident looking for a new gig, NORTHFORCE can help match you with your perfect career.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Developed and managed by APEX and Northspan economic development groups, NORTHFORCE is a regional workforce development initiative that officially launched in February 2014. Ian Vincent - Marketing Coordinator for NORTHFORCE, shares, “With our aging population and growing economy, it was apparent that our communities needed help filling the 25,000 new jobs that will exist here over the next decade.”

NORTHFORCE tracks and posts career and internship opportunities in the region, including the North Shore of Minnesota, the Iron Range, the Twin Ports, and Northwestern Wisconsin. Along with hosting these career opportunities, they also match candidates in their database with these jobs.

Since its inception, NORTHFORCE has attracted 4,200 users, and celebrated 120 successful job placements. Individuals interested in being matched or kept up-to-date with opportunities in their desired field can create free profiles and upload resumes at northforce.org.

Help for Duluth Transplants

NORTHFORCE offers a wide range of services for anyone looking to live and work in Duluth and the surrounding region. Communication Specialist Josie Strom shares, “Some people hop on our website to create a profile, upload their resume, and find the perfect job for them based on factors such as their areas of interest or how far they want to commute each day.”

“Others,” she continues, “Would like a second set of eyes to glance over their resume, or are new to the area and need an introduction to a specific Duluth company. No matter what a job seeker’s needs are, we can help them - or at least point them in the right direction.”

Partnerships with Local Colleges

NORTH FORCE is also dedicated to recent graduates and young professional placement and retention. While maintaining close relationships with regional college and university career service counselors, the team has played a key role in the Lake Superior College Strategic Planning sessions, regularly presented to college classes, and continued to advocate for internship opportunities for regional students and grads.

NORTHFORCE’s latest endeavor, Mentor Connection, has been among its most successful. A partnership with the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica, the program is flourishing. With over 55 industry-specific pairs of college students matched with local professionals, these mentees and mentors participate in events dedicated to building the mentees’ professional networking skills and personal connections to the community. Mentors also gain coaching and leadership skills along the way.

Tips for Landing Your Perfect Job

“When we hear about success stories,” Strom says, “A common thread seems to be that the person landed the job because they really researched the place where they wanted to work before they applied. Make it clear during the interview why you ARE (not would be, not might be) a great fit for that specific organization. If you’re enthusiastic and can really visualize yourself in a specific role, your interviewer will have a hard time giving the job to anyone else.”

“And, when it comes to landing that interview in the first place, be sure your resume is tailored and flawless (especially spelling and grammar) before you apply. A simple oversight can cost you the job, even if you’re completely qualified.”

Whether your perfect job is a 9-5 with full bennies, or a freelance gig with funky perks, consider checking out NORTHFORCE - Duluth’s matchmaker for jobs!

To learn more, create a free profile, or upload your resume, please visit northforce.org.

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The Mayors of Lincoln Park

 

Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood has undergone a remarkable renaissance in the last ten years. Going from a downtrodden part of Superior Street, filled with dusty storefronts and empty buildings, to what is now a vibrant and active arts, shopping, breweries, cideries, and dining mecca.

Part of the credit for the success of this transformation undeniably goes to two visionaries, Tom Hanson, co-owner of the Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse, and Corktown Deli, and Chris Benson, owner of Frost River.

Tom Hanson and Chris Benson

Many think of the two men as the unofficial “Mayors of Lincoln Park” as each has anchored important businesses, and each has fostered and supported many other business people to open up shop and revitalize what is now known as the Lincoln Park Craft District.

“Lifting Lincoln Park” Tom Hanson

Tom Hanson came to the restaurant business early. Growing up in St. Paul, one of his first jobs was as a dishwasher in a Mexican restaurant.

“My wife and I both began lifelong careers in the restaurant industry. Jaima worked for Wendy’s in Maplewood, and I for my friend’s dad at Primos on the East Side of St. Paul. We both moved on and met at Ground Round in 1980. Since then we have worked off and on together at The Richfield American Legion, The Village Inn Sports Bar, and Augustino’s in Fitger’s Mall,” said Hanson.

Hanson started as part of the Embers chain with The Duluth Grill Embers as a franchisee in 2001. In 2005, he began breaking away and doing their own menu, and, in 2008, established the Duluth Grill as sole owner with his wife Jaima.

Duluth Grill

Since then, Hanson has been legendary for his wildly popular restaurant. Featuring an extensive menu of good old-fashioned down-home cooking, the Duluth Grill was even featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” in 2010 and again this past April on Fieri’s spin-off “Triple D Nation”.

Known for their comfort foods, new takes on classic dishes, an amazing breakfast menu, and baked goods and desserts to die for, the Duluth Grill has long been an established favorite for tourists and locals alike.

“In 2014, I began thinking of another restaurant and dreaming of a second location, but I didn’t have a specific plan,” said Hanson.

He explained, “Chris Benson from Frost River came in and said, ‘I would love to have you across the street from me.’ He told me of his vision for the street and what it could become.”

Deciding with his son Louis on opening a barbecue place in Lincoln Park, across the street from Frost River, the idea for OMC Smokehouse was born, opening in 2017.

Tom Hanson, Louis Hanson, Jaima Hanson OMC Smokehouse

Not long after, once again, it was Benson who came to Tom and said, “You know, you ought to open a deli,” and the seeds were planted. The Hansons opened Cork Town Deli on the other side of Superior Street from OMC Smokehouse in 2018.

In the past months, during the COVID crisis, Hanson has been very conscious of the tough times that his fellow Lincoln Park business owners have been going through during the pandemic year and has worked on “Lifting Lincoln Park”

They put together the OMC Smokehouse Cookbook, filled with favorites with smaller batch recipes for people to make at home. Along with an online fundraiser, the money raised from the sale of the cookbooks went to the neighborhood business owners through initiatives working with Ecolibrium3, whose mission is to care for the community.

According to Hanson, Lincoln Park is now a like-minded group of people, pulling in the same direction. “I live in Lincoln Park and walk to work every day. And I truly love Duluth. It is a big small town with a wonderful quality of life.”

Chris Benson’s Vision

Tom Hanson said of his friend Chris Benson, “I know I get a lot of credit for what has happened in Lincoln Park, but it is really Chris who should get so much of the credit for having the vision of what this neighborhood could be.”

The Benson Family

Chris had been working in marketing for many years, and with his wife Dr. Andrea Hustad Benson and their three daughters, living in Rochester and the Twin Cities. Andrea got a job offer from St. Luke’s to work as an anesthesiologist.

She had grown up in Duluth, and so for her, it was a homecoming when she accepted the job. She has since also become Chief of Staff Elect at St. Luke’s.

Chris’s first thought was, “What am I going to do in Duluth?” His friend Jared Rinerson, was starting a leather chopper mitten business and Benson decided to help him get that off the ground.

They were looking for some equipment and went to see Steve Emerson who had started Frost River originally. He had closed the business and was selling all his equipment that was stored in a pole barn in Floodwood.

Benson ended up buying all the equipment eventually and decided to reopen Frost River, first in a building close to WLSSD. He hired a few sewers and the business started slowly with the Frost River label and name remaining the same.

Frost River Trading

“I wanted a Superior Street address for marketing and as a destination business. So we moved to Lincoln Park in 2011 at the former site of Minnesota Surplus and also bought the buildings on either side,” Benson explained.

With the main floor as a store, the manufacturing operation on the second level, and with bigger equipment on the lower floor, the business has grown, with the mail-order still a big part of what they do.

They sell luggage, shoulder bags, briefcases, messenger bags, and many other Frost River label products that they manufacture by hand onsite, one piece at a time. In addition, the other products they sell are all American-made with such items as mugs, soaps, dog gear and a fun potpourri of other outdoor related goods.

Benson has won the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award, Emerging Entrepreneur award, and Established Entrepreneur, and the American Made Outdoor Gear Award, among others.

During the pandemic, Benson and his staff shifted their operation for six months to working on PPE and later on renovating their store. Their online sales sustained them and allowed them to continue working on PPE.

The newly renovated Frost River store

Benson bought some new machines, hired more than 50 temporary workers and went to work sewing masks and making face shields.

“I was hearing from my wife as this went on about how frightening this was with what she was seeing at the hospital firsthand and of the immediate need for PPE. We saw that we could make a difference,” he said.

Benson has always looked at every aspect of his business being about honesty, integrity, passion, and character. “It has not been just about developing my business but also developing a neighborhood and being a steward of the Lincoln Park Craft District,” he said.

He added, “I love Duluth. I love seeing the creativity and the sweat equity that craftspeople are putting into Lincoln Park.”

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Called to the Lake

Distillers Emily and Joel Vikre

 

Emily and Joel Vikre explain at their Vikre Distillery site, “We never planned to become distillers. But one frigid January night, Lake Superior, vast, majestic, mysterious, called us with a bidding we could not refuse. ‘Come,’ she whispered to us. And we knew we would.”

As they describe it, they came here from Boston in 2012 as “a Norwegian girl who dreams in flavors. And an American boy who distills dreams into reality” to “a town still hiding rumrunner's tunnels from Prohibition and a lake so compelling, people tattoo its outline on their bodies.”

Emily at the Vikre bar

Emily is a native Duluthian who graduated from East High School and went on to Carleton College earning a degree in Biology. Moving to Boston, she took a job as the Boston Children’s Museum Health and Fitness Education Program Coordinator.

She went on to receive her MS in Nutrition Communication from Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts - and her Phd in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition also from Friedman.

Emily is a nationally recognized food and drinks writer, blogger and food photographer, who has been a regular columnist for the James Beard award-winning site Food52 and contributed to many other publications, including Lucky Peach, Minnesota Public Radio and Norwegian American Weekly. She has also written a book, “Camp Cocktails, Easy, Fun, and Delicious Recipes for the Great Outdoors!

Joel built much of the furniture for Vikre and now works as a craftsman and builder with Tilt Town Fab and Cedar and Stone Nordic Saunas

Joel was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew up in Spokane, Washington. He went to Dartmouth College receiving his undergrad degree in ecology and then went on to medical school. He received his MS in Health and Medical Science. He became more interested in anthropology, non-profits and working on hospitals at the organizational level.

Deciding to leave medical school because he wanted to focus on global health initiatives, he helped to start two internationally acclaimed non-profits that fight HIV-AIDS and promote water sanitation in parts of Africa.

Joel recalls learning about rudimentary distilling from a grandmother in a mud hut in a Kenyan village, who made some moonshine called “Tears of the Lion.” He explained, “The process wasn’t very scientific, but I liked the taste.”

Emily and Joel met through mutual friends in 2008 when they both came back to Duluth for a wedding and reconnected in Boston where they then were both living and working. They “eloped” in 2010 and had their Duluth wedding in 2011.

One fateful night, in 2012, the couple was visiting Duluth and Emily’s parents, Lise Lunge-Larsen, children’s writer and storyteller, and Dr. Steven Kuross who practices with Essentia Health in hematology and oncology.

The four of them had a discussion about distilling, wondering with all the crafts beer companies popping up, why no one had pursued distilling spirits locally. With their science backgrounds, Emily and Joel began researching spirits and distilling, talking about what it would entail and where they would live to pursue it.

“After lots of discussion, when we decided to go ahead, we thought, ‘Why live anywhere else?’ It felt like it was a perfect gift from the Lake,” Emily said.

“This move came at a good time for us, and it was a great decision. We both wanted to be rooted to a place,” Joel added.

They found space for the distillery in the shadow of the Lift Bridge in the Paulucci Building in Canal Park. It took them a year to raise the finances, buy and install equipment, and jump through all the other big logistical hoops, before they could open their doors.

“Opening a distillery was a big lift, and we had a lot to learn to understand the business,” noted Joel. They were licensed to start operating in August of 2013, and their first distillery products (three gins) were released in February of 2014. They also opened their on-site cocktail room at the end of 2014.

They have a “Drink less. Drink better” philosophy of alcohol use. Producing boreal gins, a Scandinavian distilled spirit called aquavit, whiskey, rye and a bar master series of liquors, Vikre has received numerous awards including from Wine Enthusiast, Good Food, and San Francisco’s world spirits competition.

Depending on the demands at the time, they share the work at Vikre with Emily working on the branding, “story-telling,” and marketing, and Joel working on the order fulfillment, nuts and bolts of the equipment, and the distilling.

They typically have thirty employees, which has fluctuated a bit seasonally and with the COVID closures when they had some temporary layoffs.

Running a for-profit business has brought some social and ethical considerations to the forefront for the couple. At their website, they note, “From the inception of Vikre Distillery, our goal has been to take our funny little business, in this industry that is not known for its conscientiousness, and strive to create a model where we use our business to support the community and the environment.”

They pay their employees a living wage and work hard to create a positive work environment. They both note that it is important for them to give back to the community by supporting a variety of area groups and donating to local causes.

One important initiative was to give away at no cost, and later selling at a reasonable price, a 70 percent alcohol solution hand sanitizer. They gave sanitizer to other organizations as well, including the Duluth Police Department, some area grocery stores, and to CHUM homeless shelter. The sanitizer is still available at their onsite shop and their website.

Nearly everything that the Vikres do brings them back to the beautiful shores of Lake Superior, and for their business, using the sparkling cold water of the Lake and wild botanicals including juniper, cedar, and spruce from the Northwoods.

Emily, Joel, Espen, and Vidar Vikre

Joel describes Duluth as “the coolest community I have ever seen. I have fallen in love with it here. The multi-generational family connections and the rituals of family are all so special. I enjoy feeling being part of a ‘village.’”

“I have loved reconnecting with old friends who have also come back, and meeting new people and making new friends,” added Emily.

Even with their busy schedules at Vikre, they still are always dabbling in new ventures. Joel built much of the furniture for Vikre and now works as a craftsman and builder with Tilt Town Fab and Cedar and Stone Nordic Sauna. Emily is at work on her second book, this one a family camp cookbook.

Emily has also enjoyed area arts organizations and is on the Board of Directors of Loon Opera. Joel is the President of the Board of Directors of the St. Louis River Alliance. And they both take all the time they can get with their sons Espen (7) and Vidar (3), soaking up every outdoor experience they can get in together as a family in every season.

“I loved growing up here,” said Emily. “It is such a wonderful place to live. The trails, the parks, skating, skiing, biking, the time with the kids here now is so special. The access to nature is unparalleled.”

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Move Here. Work Here. Play Here. Stay Here.

Joe Fairbanks

 

Video by joefairbanks.com

 

Make your Minnesota Dreams a Reality at Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts

Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of relocating to Duluth, or even a bit further up Highway 61, on Minnesota’s majestic North Shore. While your vision may be vivid and true, the logistics can seem overwhelming.

Questions like, ‘Where will I live?’ And, ‘Where will I work?’ are likely swimming through your head. These are certainly valid concerns that must be addressed. But they aren’t insurmountable.

And, we can help! In fact, we at Destination Duluth have one of the “big two” covered for you: employment.

Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts, in Tofte, Minnesota, is hiring. A premiere Lake Superior resort, Bluefin Bay exudes the very best of what Minnesota’s North Shore has to offer. This includes great benefits and front-row access to “everything nature;” all situated in a cozy, yet highly diverse community. For more information and an application, click here.

Perks

Bluefin Bay provides access to the year-round playground that is the Lutsen-Tofte region, and is nestled against the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains and surrounded by the Superior National Forest. And, then there’s the Lake. Swoon. Bluefin Bay is perched directly on the shores of Lake Superior, offering breathtaking views from virtually every angle.

The business offers job-seekers positions in hospitality, culinary arts, management, and more. Additionally, Bluefin Bay offers a comprehensive benefits package, with plenty of special perks, including resort discounts.

Take it from Them

Today, we’ll introduce you to four current Bluefin Bay employees:

Ross Sherman – Director of Lodging;

Jessica Huppler – Grille & Event Manager;

Peter Hastings – Recreation & Activities Coordinator; and

Mario Cruz – Manager on Duty - Bluefin Grille

This cheerful crew happily shared their favorite parts of living on Minnesota’s North Shore, and what they love most about working at Bluefin.

Nature

“I love living up here on the North Shore,” Sherman said. “I’m originally from the Twin Cities. I vacationed up here until 20 years ago, and camped in the Boundary Waters with my family. It was always such an amazing experience. My family moved here, and I followed.”

“I love Lake Superior, the Boundary Waters, and the Superior National Forest,” he added. “Living and working on the Shore, there are tons of opportunities anywhere you go. My perfect North Shore day would be a hike in the Superior National Forest, and a paddle on Sawbill Lake. It’s peaceful and relaxing.”

“I love living on the North Shore because of the quietness, the peacefulness, and all of the nature that’s around you every single day,” Huppler added. “My perfect day would be waking up and spending time with nature, usually with a cup of tea, and listening to the water wash against the rocks.”

“Being on the North Shore, I can work and play at the same time,” Hastings noted. “On an average work day, I do guided trips, I talk to people, and I have fun. The North Shore has everything you could ever want if you’re into outdoor recreation: mountain biking, paddling, hiking, backpacking, or climbing. My perfect North Shore day would include grabbing coffee by the Lake, watching the sun rise, going for a hike, and ending the day with a nice fire in the woods.”

“I enjoy the people, the scenery, and the beautiful fall colors,” Cruz said. “It’s nice and quiet.”

And, Cruz’ perfect North Shore day, while modest, is no less enjoyable than the others. “I would stay at home,” he stated simply. “I have a beautiful view through my living room window.”

Diversity

Many are surprised to learn of how much human diversity can be found at Bluefin Bay, and in Tofte and the surrounding communities, as well. “Life on the North Shore is very diverse,” Huppler said. “I’ve met more people from international backgrounds here than anywhere else in the state. At the same time, you get such a small-town, close-knit community feel. It really makes you feel at home.”

“A lot of our staff (at Bluefin) are international,” Cruz added. “I enjoy meeting all the different people, from places like Russia, the Philippines, the UK, Peru, Paraguay, and Puerto Rico. They all come together and immediately bond. Seeing that happen is pretty amazing.”

Opportunity

For employees of Bluefin Bay, prospects for advancement abound. “There is a ton of opportunity for growth,” said Sherman, who started his Bluefin Bay career delivering supplies, and today holds a management role.

“There is a lot of opportunity for growth and development,” echoed Huppler, adding, “Working at Bluefin Bay has been amazing because of the supportive community, and just the overall family atmosphere amongst staff and management.”

Make it Happen

So, what are you waiting for? If Minnesota is your dream, go grab it. “Anyone can make it happen,” said Sherman, the Tofte transplant.

And, if the logistics make you waver ever so slightly, just remember the amazing Lake Superior views that await you.

“Not many people get the opportunity to live on the North Shore of Lake Superior or be in one of the most scenic areas, I think, in the whole country,” Hastings said.

“The best part of this job is the office view,” Huppler added. “Being able to come to work and see Lake Superior every morning is just incredible.”

––

 

 

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South Pier Inn - A Uniquely Duluth Experience

Video by joefairbanks.com

Perched at the very tip of Duluth’s Park Point, just a whisker’s width away from of the Aerial Lift Bridge and the majesty of Lake Superior, is South Pier Inn. This ultra-unique, 29-room hotel features Scandinavian architectural influences, and of course, incomparable views of the Big Lake.

To put it simply, South Pier Inn is one of Duluth’s treasures.

Recognitions

But many others have also taken notice. South Pier Inn has been named the #1 traveler-ranked hotel in Duluth by travel website Trip Advisor for several years running; it was also named “property of the year” by the Minnesota Lodging Association in 2013. South Pier Inn has also garnered attention from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the New York Post.

The majority of South Pier Inn’s guests are repeat customers. The record-holder is a couple who live about two hours south of Duluth, who have stayed there over 200 times.

The owners of the Inn – married couple Dale and Betty Sola, along with Dale’s two adult sons, Rand and Steven – couldn’t be prouder. The family has taken the property from an overgrown, decrepit vacant lot whom nobody wanted, to the special and well-loved hotel it is today.

And, for the Sola family, Park Point isn’t just where they make their living, but it’s also the place they call home.

Park Point

“Duluth, Park Point, and the harbor are all very unique,” Betty Sola said. “But Park Point is the most unique part of Duluth, in my opinion. It’s an island that is seven miles long, and about three or four blocks wide. There’s a small-town feel to it. And, you can hop across the road and be on the beach.”

The Sola family has lived on Duluth’s Park Point for many years. So, when a piece of land just a block away from their home sat vacant and for sale for over twenty years, it caught their eye.

“It looked terrible,” Betty said. “The property had been neglected. There were overgrown shrubs and trees, and there were an old house and garage on it.”

Although the family had no experience in the hospitality industry, the Solas purchased the land, tore down the house and garage, and decided to build an Inn. They knew without a doubt that the location was something special.

South Pier Inn is at the foot of the Aerial Lift Bridge,” Betty said. “The mechanics of it are fascinating. There are 1,000-foot ships and other vessels that sail underneath the bridge, and people staying at our hotel are perched right there. It’s almost like our guests can reach out and touch the ships.”

In fact, one of South Pier Inn’s most beloved amenities is the “late night ship’s call” – where hotel staff place a call to a guest’s room - by request - at any hour of the day or night, to inform them that a ship is going by. “People just love it,” Betty said.

Another frequent guest comment is how clean the hotel is. “Lucas Trea, our head housekeeper, and his staff, are deep cleaning every day. A dust bunny doesn’t stand a chance at our hotel,” Betty noted with a chuckle.

Betty Sola also credits General Manager Branden Robinson, a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hospitality Management, with much of South Pier Inn’s success. “We have the most outstanding people on staff, most notably Branden, who has been with us for about a dozen years. We credit Branden and his team with helping make our hotel the best it can be.”

Beginnings

Dale Sola, who is also a contractor, was the designer of the South Pier Inn. And, the family hired Kraus-Anderson Construction, based in Duluth, to build the hotel and make Dale’s vision a reality.

“Dale is 100% Finnish,” said Betty. “And, you can really see the crisp, clean Scandinavian design. There are a lot of 45-degree angles, a peaked roof, and no poufy drapes. People really seem to relax here.”

The Solas broke ground on South Pier Inn in November 2001. The hotel opened for business in May 2002.

Small business partners

As the Solas are owners of a small business, they prefer to keep their investments local, and with other small businesses, whenever possible. And this extends to the offerings they provide for their guests.

“For our breakfasts, we offer pastries from Duluth’s Johnson’s Bakery; we serve coffee from Duluth Coffee Company; and we get our granola from Positively 3rd Street Bakery – it’s hand-tossed and delivered fresh,” Betty said. “It’s important for us to give back, and one way we do that is to do business with other small businesses.”

South Pier Inn also supports local non-profits through financial donations, including to Wildwoods and local veteran’s groups. Additionally, South Pier Inn provides funds for an annual scholarship, awarded to one student pursuing a career in hospitality, through the Minnesota Lodging Association.

Future

Looking ahead, South Pier Inn plans to continue providing highly personalized service in a clean, comfortable setting. “In the eighteen years we’ve been open, the hospitality landscape has changed significantly in Duluth,” Robinson said. “But we continue to be very guest-focused, and work to deliver the best possible experience for our guests.”

The Solas look forward to hosting you as guests at their Inn. It gives them great joy to help their guests, some of whom are world travelers, relax and unwind.

“We really, truly enjoy the business that we’re in,” Betty said. “And, if you haven’t been to Duluth, you’re just going to love it. I look forward to welcoming you to South Pier Inn, and having you become part of our story.”

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Glensheen - A community space for Duluthians to enjoy

Joe Fairbanks

 

Video by joefairbanks.com

Glensheen Mansion 

Keeping it Fresh 

for Visitors and Residents Alike

By Andrea Busche - Video by Joe Fairbanks

Glensheen Mansion, located at 3300 London Road in Duluth, is truly a sight to behold. Constructed in the Jacobean revival architectural style - a type of English Tudor - the house was built over the span of three years: from 1905 – 1908. Upon its completion, Glensheen became home to one of Minnesota’s, and certainly Duluth’s, wealthiest men – attorney and capitalist, Chester Congdon.

Although today it is known as a “historic house museum,” Glensheen was the private home to Chester and Clara Congdon and their family for many years, until it was donated to the University of Minnesota in 1979. The home is available year-round to the public for tours and other events.

While Glensheen has been a tourist destination for many decades, a primary goal of current leadership is to continue drawing in local residents, too. To accomplish this goal, there are many fresh initiatives at Glensheen, including outdoor concerts, dining adventures, hiking, a new bar, botanical gardens, and more – all to help remind native Duluthians of this amazing gem, located right in our own backyard.

Not Just for Grandmas!

Glensheen features 27,000 square feet of living space, a gardener’s cottage, a boathouse, and many stunning gardens - all set on twelve gorgeous acres. “Glensheen is a 12-acre estate on the shore of Lake Superior. It’s the nicest piece of property on the Lake in Duluth,” said Dan Hartman, Glensheen’s Director.

It also contains many beautiful and interesting antiques, which were privately owned and used by the Congdons while they lived in the home. “We are fortunate that more than 95% of the collection is from the family and most is from when the house was built over a hundred years ago,” Hartman said.

With all of these amazing amenities to see and explore, Glensheen has never had trouble attracting tourists. But many Duluthians believe that if they’ve visited once, they’ve seen it all.

“There’s something built into the brand of House Museums that make them sound immediately - like something for your grandmother,” Hartman admitted. “But we are trying to fight back on that notion – this is an amazing place, and I’m excited for us at Glensheen to continue to find new ways to flip that idea on people.”

Food and Drink

To achieve this goal, Hartman and his crew have plenty of ideas. Primarily, they include leveraging Glensheen’s amazing grounds.

Nestled between Tischer Creek, Bent Brook, and Lake Superior, Glensheen is an amazing place to simply hang out. Their Concerts on the Pier series, where visitors can chill on the Lake’s edge while enjoying a local beer and listening to live tunes, is a fun, newer initiative which is very popular.

Hartman also revealed plans to open a bar on-site, to be called Shark on the Lake. And, “Chef in the Garden,” an event where local chefs pluck and cook up fresh produce right from Glensheen’s grounds, is about as farm-to-table as it gets.

Flora and Fauna

If music and beer aren’t your speed, perhaps the flora and fauna will draw you in. Currently, the French and English-style gardens on Glensheen’s grounds feature a wide variety of plants, featuring many local varietals, but a bit of global-inspired greenery, too, such as Japanese and Chinese Lilac. But Hartman hopes to add even more.

“Chester Congdon gave land to the City to create Congdon Park,” Hartman said. “My vision is to someday bring back the old hiking trail that was on both sides of Tischer Creek and have it directly connect to Congdon Park. That way, the community of Duluth could go right into the park and be able to hike to the mouth of the Tischer Creek, right on the property of Glensheen.”

“The second phase would be to create a botanical garden,” he added. “So, when people walk that trail, there would be a wide variety of flora and fauna that we would maintain and plant. Maybe a stand of lady slippers, and some yellow orchids. Just a wide variety of northern climate flowers and plants that we would ID and tag – it would feel like a botanical space that is open to the public to enjoy and be educated by.”

Brand-New Tour

Other initiatives, perhaps appealing more to Glensheen traditionalists (or your grandmother), will include a “New Spaces Tour”. This guided journey will offer access to previously-unseen nooks within Glensheen, such as Clara’s balcony, the carriage house attic, and the boathouse.

Welcome, Duluthians

While Hartman gladly welcomes tourists, and is grateful for their continued patronage of Glensheen, he also has a direct message to share with his fellow Duluthians:

“This is your space – this is your community space,” he said. “It used to be owned by the wealthiest family in Duluth, if not Minnesota, and now it’s yours. Come and enjoy it.”

 

 

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How To Follow Your Passion: Read, Research, and Move to Duluth

Kevin Wood

“Duluth, MN -- America's Best Outdoor City in 2014” was the headline I read in an issue of Outside magazine. Usually, people read these articles and just think, "Oh, that’s nice. There is a city in Minnesota that is number 1. I should think about making a trip up there to visit." You never really think about moving to a new city because of an article you read in a magazine.

Yet the notion of “America’s Best Outdoor City” left an impression on me, as I love spending time outdoors. It is my passion. It is what I love to do.

My name is Kevin Wood, and until September 2015 my wife, Katie, and I were living in Winona, MN. We were both teaching there. I taught career exploration along with health classes at a public high school, and Katie taught 1st grade.  

You Want to Do What?!?! 

Life threw a curve ball at us when I decided I wanted to leave the security of a full-time job as an educator in a school that I enjoyed in order to pursue a career in financial advising. Crazy!!!! I know. 

But, I missed the business world. I used to own an exterior painting business in college and I missed the excitement of growing a business and meeting new people. It is a thrilling experience to be a part of a service that can benefit a community. 

Choosing a Community 

All of a sudden we were faced with an imminent decision: where do we want to make our home?  

We thought critically about this question. What city would be most attractive to live in, to start a family, to find a church and eventually establish us as part of the community? The story from Outside magazine reappeared in my mind. Although I wasn’t completely convinced this was our journey's end just yet. I felt as though I had to do some research to solidify my thoughts.  

So, I did what any good millennial would do and ran a full-fledged Google search on Duluth, MN. I read about the remarkable goal to build 100 miles of continuous trail within city limits known as the Duluth Traverse.  I researched the Duluth school district and learned it ranked higher than most other Minnesota schools.  Last but not least, I learned that Duluth has more green space within city limits than any other city. All three were huge draws to come and live in the Zenith City, and thus finally after much deliberation, we made the decision --- Duluth is the place to be! 

Did We Make the Right Decision? 

Ever since moving in September 2015 we have only questioned our decision one time, and that was when a city squirrel ate the potted avocado tree off the front porch of our central hillside apartment. Inconsiderate city squirrels aside, Duluth has been an amazing city to live in these past few years. We have met incredible people and have participated in various community events such as the Northland Trail SeriesDuluth Farmers Market, and the Christmas City of the North Parade. 

We couldn’t be happier about making the move to Duluth. It is a new life adventure that only seems to get better and better as times goes on.

---Kevin Wood
Edward Jones Financial Advisor

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Living at Split Rock Lighthouse

Dennis O'Hara

Split Rock Lighthouse - Come for the View, Stay for the Story

Video by joefairbanks.com

 

For Hayes Scriven, Split Rock Lighthouse isn’t just where he reports for work. It is also his home.

Scriven, a self-professed “history geek,” considers his new job as site manager to be a dream job. It blends his love of history with his other passion – the enjoyment and appreciation of nature.

“My family loves kayaking, canoeing, fishing and hunting, and now we live in a place where we can do that all the time,” Scriven said. “Tie that in with the history aspect, and add the aura and status of Split Rock, and it’s the perfect dream location.”

In an interesting “full circle” turn of events, Split Rock is also the place where Scriven proposed to his wife, Jenny - years before they would make the site their home. Recently, Scriven moved his family, which now includes Jenny and their two children, Aneliese (12), and Devin (9), directly on-site.

The move has been a good one; highly enjoyable for the entire Scriven family, and a great fit for the management and care of Split Rock Lighthouse.

Previous experience

Prior to his new position, Scriven, who grew up in Nerstrand, Minnesota (just outside of Northfield), served as Executive Director for the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center (BVHC) in Superior. And before that, he was the executive director of the Northfield Historical Society, a job he began at just 22 years old.

But Minnesota’s North Shore has always beckoned. “My wife and I are big outdoor people,” he said. “We’d come up the Shore, and it always had a spot in our hearts.” And, when speaking about Lake Superior, he noted, “There’s this magic behind it. It has this pull you can’t get away from.”

Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse, perched on a ruggedly beautiful 160-foot cliff, is a huge tourist draw, bringing in a whopping 150,000 visitors in a typical year. In addition to the actual lighthouse, the property also includes Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, featuring a lakeshore picnic area, trail center, tent camping, and 14 miles of hiking, biking, snowshoe, and cross-country ski trails.

The history of the lighthouse itself is rich and intriguing, indeed. On November 28, 1905, a single storm-damaged 29 ships on Lake Superior. Soon after, a delegation descended upon Washington, D.C. to lobby for a lighthouse.

Originally known as Stony Point, the name Split Rock was first used by the lobbyists when describing the location, and, ultimately, the name stuck. In early 1907, Congress appropriated $75,000 for a lighthouse and fog signal at Split Rock. The U.S. Lighthouse Service completed the construction of the 7.6-acre facility in 1910.

The lighthouse remained operational for many years. But, as new navigational technology, including GPS, began to emerge, the use of the lighthouse as a navigational tool declined. Split Rock Light Station was closed in 1969.

The State of Minnesota obtained the site in 1971 and transferred administrative responsibility to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1976. The Historical Society continues to manage the site, and is also Scriven’s employer.

Future

Similar to many destinations, Split Rock had to alter operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The site was completely shut down from March to July. Today, the site remains affected, as tours remain outdoor-only.

“We offer a fully outdoor experience,” Scriven said. “People can’t enter the tower or lighthouse quarters now, but they can speak to a guide and take in the view, along with a self-guided tour. We are hoping in the next year to get back to normal,” he noted.

Once things return to normal, Scriven has big plans for Split Rock. “Eventually, I want to offer more experiential programming, and giving tours in a different way, such as photographic tours, or a lore and legends tour,” he said. “We’d like people to be more connected with the site.”

Family decision

The Scriven family loves their life at Split Rock, where they can experience wildlife, including eagles and bears, and outdoor activities, like kayaking and canoeing. For them, living on-site was the best choice.

“We had the option on whether or not to live on-site,” Scriven said. “I talked to the previous site manager, Lee Radzak, who raised his family here, and he said I’d never regret doing it. So, I talked to my wife about privacy, and the different type of life we’d have. We decided that if we wanted to do this job right, we needed to live on-site.”

“Our kids thought it was so cool,” Scriven added. “My son said, ‘Can we move there right now?’” Ultimately, the family moved in the day before young Devin’s ninth birthday, and the entire family got to celebrate with a beautiful new view.

An amazing journey

Not everyone gets to say that they have their dream job. Hayes Scriven is well aware of his good fortune and relishes every moment.

“Every day is so different,” Scriven said. “I get to meet so many different people, and the kids love the North Shore. Having that freedom and enjoying nature is so important. Every day is an amazing journey.”

“I feel so fortunate and humbled,” he added. “I’m awestruck all the time. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and not many people get to have this experience.”

 

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