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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Enjoy a Bird’s Eye View of Duluth

Video by Joe Fairbanks - joefairbanks.com

Enjoy a Bird’s Eye View of Duluth With Lake Superior Helicopters

Whether you’re a tourist or a “lifer,” there are so many unique and versatile ways to explore Duluth. Traveling via snowboard; fat tire bike; ski; hiking boot; and even snowshoe are just a few of our many options, depending on the season.

But we can also add another transportation modality you may not have considered: helicopter.

That’s right, helicopter. Lake Superior Helicopters (LSH), established in 2009, operates out of Duluth International Airport. LSH patrons can choose from 15-, 30-, and 60-mile tours, where passengers can view the Twin Ports from up above. One thousand feet above, to be exact.

LSH customers can choose the first-class treatment, which includes champagne, chocolates, and even a full red-carpet experience. Or, they can opt for the adrenaline-pumping, “doors off” option. The experience is so immersive that passengers can literally hear conversations between their pilot and air traffic control. Morning, afternoon, and sunset flights are available.

No matter which tour is chosen, all LSH passengers are promised a safe and unforgettable helicopter excursion. “It’s a very fun experience,” said LSH founder, Eric Monson. “It’s liberating. The best way I’ve heard it described is that it’s like a magic carpet ride.”

The Experience

Even if you’ve lived in Duluth all your life, an aerial tour with LSH will no doubt give you a completely fresh perspective of the area. And, while you’re seeing the area from a bird’s eye view, the flying altitude is still low enough to see everything in great detail.

“Most of our tours fly only 1,000 feet off the ground, compared to commercial airlines, which fly at about 30,000 feet,” Monson noted. “So, you get a really nice perspective, especially with a helicopter. There is a lot of good visibility out of the front, but every single seat is a window seat.”

LSH tours hit many of the “high points” of Duluth’s most interesting attractions. “We fly out over many different sites in Duluth,” Monson said, “Including Glensheen Mansion, the St. Louis River, over the coal docks and ore docks in Duluth and Superior, Park Point, the Aerial Lift Bridge, and Canal Park, to name a few. And of course, we fly over the shores of Lake Superior.”

In addition to being a visual delight, LSH tours are educational, too. “Our tour guides and pilots go through extensive training on the local area,” Monson added. “They are able to give a history of the different structures and sites in Duluth; they can give you information about activity in the port; and they can also provide info about nature and industry in the Duluth area.”

Safety is Key

“Safety is paramount in everything we do,” Monson said. “If we don’t have well-maintained, safe helicopters, well-trained and professional pilots, and a well-trained ground crew, then we aren’t doing our job. We do as much as we can to mitigate risk. We want you to have a safe, reliable, and fun experience.”

Prior to their flight, passengers are instructed on how to safely enter, fly in, and exit the craft. LSH pilots receive extensive training, so they are equipped to handle any issues that may come up during the excursion. And, two full-time mechanics work right here, on-site in Duluth, to maintain LSH’s fleet of aircraft.

Great Option for Everyone

Whether you are seeing Duluth for the first time, or have lived here for 30 years, a tour with LSH has something for everyone. “We’ve had several customers fly on a tour, come back, and say they’ve been coming to Duluth for 10 or 15 years, and they learned more about Duluth on that tour than in all their visits prior,” Monson noted.

“That is a really positive thing for us. We work really hard to make sure that, not only do you get that experience in a helicopter, but the tour’s going to have a lot of information, and you enjoy it.”

“Our goal is to have a safe, positive experience, and just return with that ‘wow factor’ after you get back that makes you want to come and do it again.”

For more information, please visit lakesuperiorhelicopters.com.

 

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Garage Starts - Strengthening, Supporting, and Empowering Entrepreneurs

Garage Starts - Strengthening, Supporting, and Empowering Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are often relieved to learn that many of the world’s largest and most successful companies had humble beginnings. While anyone willing to start a business usually possesses ambition, work ethic, and “hustle” in spades, many initially lack the resources and business savvy needed to successfully launch their company. Enter Garage Starts.

Located in Two Harbors, Garage Starts launched two years ago. Its mission is to “strengthen, support, and empower entrepreneurs.”

And, that title?

“We got our name from the place where some of the world’s most successful businesses began – in people’s garages,” said Matt Barrett, the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing. He noted global giants Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft as a few aspirational examples who started in a garage.

Services offered

Garage Starts can provide assistance to businesses trying to get off the ground, or even help established businesses operate more smoothly. “We take people looking to start a business or those who need support, and help them get through the initial stages of launching and growth,” Barrett said. “Clients sometimes have a business idea, or come to us with a business they’ve had for 30 years that just need traction or was affected by COVID-19.”

Garage Starts can help business owners with many things, including:

  • Weekly structure and strategy meetings
  • Business projections
  • Writing a business plan
  • Figuring out financing options
  • Sourcing vendors
  • Building up stock
  • Handling logistical and operational details
  • Fractional relationships, where a member of the Garage Starts team will hold a specific position within the company for a time
  • Tracking metrics, and more

Typically, a business partnership with Garage Starts lasts somewhere between 18 months and two years. “We can continue after that, but it’s usually more organic, as needed, or on a set schedule,” Barrett said.

Thus far, the company has supported about 30 clients, representing a wide variety of business segments, including food manufacturers; construction; the service industry; e-commerce retail; brick and mortar retail, and physical product manufacturers.

The team at Garage Starts feels confident that they can assist just about any business. “Generally speaking, business is business,” Barrett said. “At the end of the day, it all runs on the same principles.”

Personal connection

Barrett himself is no stranger to the roller-coaster of the entrepreneurial world. A passionate outdoorsman, he developed something called the Duck ID App, which helps users identify duck species. Today, the app is available on Google Play, with about 10,000 users.

“Similar to how many businesses are started, I had a problem,” Barrett explained. “I searched for a solution and couldn’t find one. So, I created one.”

Barrett also brings a background in sales and sales management to the table.

The Team

In addition to Barrett, the Garage Starts team has three other employees. Barrett explained their various roles.

“Chris Swanson, the head coach, brings vision, leadership, and focuses on the big picture. Calvin Luhrsen handles the operations side. He meets with business owners week in and week out and introduces them to funding agencies. And, Sarah Koster handles our logistics side.”

Deeply meaningful work

For Barrett and the entire Garage Starts team, the work of supporting entrepreneurs is a calling. “I look at it as a ministry,” Barrett said. “It’s not unheard of for people to be in tears in our office. Literally, every entrepreneur we work with tells us they’re scared, lonely, or overwhelmed. They often say, ‘I feel like I’m on an island here.’”

“And, I get the amazing opportunity to tell them they’re just like everyone else, and it’s just a matter of getting through it,” he added.

“We have an opportunity to help people find success and balance. You can run a successful business without sacrificing everything else in your life. We are truly motivated by helping people.”

Are you trying to launch a business, improve your current business, or need some advice for recalibrating your company in a post-COVID world? Please visit garagestarts.com. The entire team looks forward to helping you.

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Visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Video by Joe Fairbanks

Visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum
By Andrea Busche

Whether you are a native Duluthian or just here for a visit, consider adding the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM) to your itinerary. Featuring the finest collection of railroad equipment, vintage locomotive artifacts, and educational exhibits, LSRM has something for everyone.

“The mission of LSRM is to preserve, interpret, and present to the public the history of railroading, especially as it relates to our area,” said Ken Buehler – Executive Director of LSRM and General Manager of the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

History

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the railroad industry in Duluth and the surrounding area, you’re in luck; all stories and exhibits displayed at LSRM are tied directly to the region at large.

“The founders focused on this area. The artifacts here – the snowplows, rotaries, steam locomotives, diesels, and the cars – are all very important to this area because they ran in this area,” Buehler said. “This is where they stayed because this is where they worked.”

Duluth’s Depot was originally constructed in 1892 by the Northern Pacific Railway. Today, it is home to LSRM and its partner, the North Shore Scenic Railroad. And, if the proposed Northern Lights Express, a high-speed passenger rail service, becomes a reality, then the Duluth Depot would serve yet another important purpose: as a fully-operational transportation hub.

Collection Highlights

Buehler shared a few highlights LSRM has to offer. “The things that tourists like when they come here is the diversity of the artifacts. But yet, the rail enthusiasts will notice something very special about visiting LSRM, and that is the collection itself. For instance, there is the William Crooks, the first steam locomotive ever in Minnesota. It was brought up the Mississippi River on a barge.”

“And then, there is the largest and most powerful steam locomotive ever built, Number 227 Mallet from the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway. During WWII, it lugged down tons and tons of iron ore, and fed the machinery that saved the world.”

But even more compelling than the artifacts themselves are the personal stories that shine through the exhibits. “The stories of the men and women who built the railroads – that have built our great nation – are told at the LSRM through the artifacts that are in the collection,” Buehler said. “At LSRM, we’re full of stories about Duluth, about the evolution of the Iron Range, and about the great contributions made here in the Twin Ports, where rail meets sail.”

North Shore Scenic Railroad

In addition to the fantastic artifacts on display, visitors can take an actual train ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad, which departs with regularity from the Duluth Depot. Here, the story and unique history of trains come alive, as people of all ages can take a fully narrated tour along the beautiful shore of Lake Superior.

In addition to the North Shore excursion, there is a pizza train, a beer tasting train, and even the family-friendly - and wildly popular - Thomas the Tank Engine weekends.

Large Economic Impact

LSRM and the North Shore Scenic Railroad comprise a large part of the Twin Ports’ tourism economy. “LSRM and North Shore Scenic Railroad are destination attractions,” Buehler said. “We support the Twin Ports tourism industry, which in turn supports 7,000 jobs and generates nearly $14 million per year in hotel/motel and tourism-related taxes. So, we have a huge economic impact on this area.”

“One example is our very popular Thomas the Tank Engine weekends,” he added. “The economic impact of having 18,000 people come and see Thomas and his best friend, Percy, here at LSRM has been documented to be $8.5 million.”

Funding and Support

LSRM is partially funded through the generous support of its nearly 1,000 members. It also receives a portion of the proceeds generated by the North Shore Scenic Railroad, and is otherwise funded through grants and other donations.

Buehler shared that LSRM’s success is due, in large part, to its large, and deeply dedicated, volunteer base. “We are an all-volunteer operation,” he shared. Our volunteers keep the museum vibrant; they keep the railroad running; and over the years, they’ve donated hundreds of thousands of hours.”

Learn More

LSRM maintains an interesting and educational YouTube channel, which can be found at Duluthtrains.com/videotours. Here, you can view over 130 behind-the-scenes video tours, take an in-depth look at the collection, hear railroad stories, and more.

An official guide to the LSRM, which offers detailed descriptions of each and every piece in the collection, is also available for purchase in their gift shop. The guide makes a perfect gift for train enthusiasts. But your experience isn’t fully complete without a museum tour and a ride on one of those impressive trains.

“What makes LSRM a destination,” Buehler shared, “Is that we are a world-class train museum. We have even been recognized by USA Today as the best transportation museum in America.”

For more information, please visit lsrm.org or duluthtrains.com.

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Sweet Treats and Sweeter Memories

Callie’s Sweets at Burlington Station in Two Harbors

by Sheryl Jensen

Locals and tourists alike have a fun and fanciful new place to satisfy their sweet tooths at Callie’s Sweets in Two Harbors, located in Burlington Station at Hwy 61 & 7th Avenue, just twenty minutes outside of Duluth.

With their grand opening on May 29, 2021, the shop features gourmet fudge, popcorn, caramels, and candied apples made with fresh ingredients and prepared in their own candy kitchen onsite with windows for patrons to see the goodies being made.

Callie Swanson

Twenty-one-year-old Callie Swanson, a Two Harbors’ resident, is in charge of the shop that bears her name. She decidedly comes from an entrepreneurial family. Her sister Ashleigh runs Lou’s Fish House; her mother owns and operates the popular Vine & Branches Inn, a boutique hotel located by Lou’s Fish House; and her father, Chris Swanson, is the mayor of Two Harbors who also owns a digital marketing company called PureDriven.

Callie said, “I know I am young to be starting a business, but I have a great team around me, including my sister Ashleigh who is helping me with equipment and licensing. The whole family is on board with everything. The idea for Callie’s Sweets was my dad’s idea originally. We are all so excited now to see everything coming together so well and finally opening the doors.”

About the potpourri of planned fudge and popcorn flavors, Callie noted that they will be a work in progress as they see what sells and what people’s favorites are. “We are hoping to have a majority of what’s currently on the list along with adding some more flavors.”

Fudge flavors include: Cookies and Cream, Peanut Butter, Cranberry Orange, Maple Pecan, Key Lime, Chocolate, Birthday Cake, Lemon Oreo, Strawberries and Cream, Cotton Candy, Chocolate Caramel Coconut, and Mint Oreo.

Popcorn flavors include: Cinnamon Roll, Caramel Corn, Animal Cookie, Peanut Butter, Birthday Cake, Cheddar Cheese, Butterfinger, Maple Bacon, and Orange Dreamsicle.

Full cases of traditional bulk candy including gummy bears, jelly beans, foreign and old-fashioned candies, and a variety of chocolates offer even more yummy options for kids and adults.

Tables, chairs and booths are available for seating inside. They also plan on a patio and a cozy area with fire pits outside.

Callie's Sweets is located in the new Burlington Station on Hwy 61 in Two Harbors

The 7,000 square foot building features a train and depot motif with model trains going around the interior of the building, with 5,000 feet of model train tracks and colorful train cars to connect to Two Harbor’s railroad history and North Shore Scenic Railroad memorabilia. They are looking at even adding a caboose in their parking lot.

Local artist Brian Olson has done some incredible murals for Callie’s Sweets. Outside of the building is a 130 feet by 12 foot mural of a train station with the entire Swanson family portrayed as people in the bustling depot.

Olson’s colorful indoor murals depict sights along the North Shore, railroad motifs, a train depot entrance as the shop’s entrance, and even an ore boat unloading colorful candy instead of iron ore.“The family gave me some ideas and then allowed me to put things together. It has been a fun project,” said Olson.

Murals by Brian Olson

Some painted storefront facades inside also give a charming small-town ambiance with a fine flowers shop, a cafe, a bank and a woman’s clothing store.

According to Marketing Director Jordan Seidel, “Callie’s Sweets will be open year-round. The space will also be available for birthday parties and other events. We will have a Farmer’s Market in the parking lot, Saturday mornings, beginning in June. We will also have outdoor games like corn hole on the patio.”

Seidel said, “We have a fun retail gift shop including some seasonal merchandise.” He noted that they plan on having gardening, kitchen, and home decor, and train-related items, games, puzzles, women’s clothing, and more for sale.

He noted that they are also starting to work with some area resorts to put together sampler packs as gifts for their guests. So far they are working with Breezy Point and Bluefin Bay.

Callie is also excited about the fundraising opportunities they are offering. They want to help organizations and teams to succeed with a new and different kind of fund raising. of selling their treats and then helping organizations promote their fundraisers on Callie’s Sweets’ social media.

They had started as an online business in 2020 are still continuing their online ordering as well at calliessweets.com People can order fudge, caramels, popcorn and gift boxes. Current updates can be found on their Facebook site.

The Swanson family

Callie said, “It’s very exciting to see everything coming together. I remember taking family trips together and enjoying family-friendly places. I want to create that same atmosphere at Callie’s Sweets. We want everyone to have this as another fun place to go to in Two Harbors.”

Providing employment for area residents and bringing tourists to other businesses in the area are added benefits to this “sweet spot.”

Seidel added, “The plan is for people to see something new every time they come here. We can’t wait for people to have the North Shore’s ‘Sweetest Adventure.’”

Callie’s Sweets is open seven days a week from 10 am to 8 pm.

Murals by Brian Olson

 

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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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