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

#befromDuluth

Hansi Johnson

Purpose

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

BalsamWreath.com & Duluth Flower Farm offer locally-grown decorations

Duluth Flower Farm offers Locally-Grown Balsam Wreaths, Christmas Trees and Decorations

Brook and Derek Hoffbauer, co-owners of rural Duluth-based Duluth Flower Farm, are your typical hard-working farmers. Together, this married couple, along with their four children – Donna (17), Deegan (15), Dane (13), and Dottie (8) - operates five greenhouses and two farms, which are spread across five acres.

The Hoffbauer family. Photo balsamwreath.com

Here, the Hoffbauers grow a wide variety of dahlias, peonies, and many other flowers, along with plants, fresh fruits, and veggies. Duluth Flower Farm operates a new year-round storefront featuring a garden center, gift shop and florist in Superior at 821 Hammond Ave, across the street from Dan's Feed Bin. In November and December, they use fresh evergreens to create nature-inspired wreaths and a wide variety of holiday decorations. They also sell their wreaths and ship them anywhere at balsamwreaths.com. Balsam Fir is the most popular tree species used for Christmas trees and wreaths. Duluth Flower Farm’s hard-working designers create many wreaths, winter porch pots, kissing balls, gnomes, garlands, and more.

Duluth Flower Farm / balsamwreath.com sell all sizes of wreaths and Christmas trees at their pop-up shop across from Dan's Feed Bin in Superior. -Facebook photo.

Farmer Doug

Derek’s father, “Farmer Doug” Hoffbauer, a long-time farmer and well-known vendor at local farmer’s markets, has been an astute mentor for the couple. “Doug has taught us everything we know,” Brook shared, adding that Derek’s mom, Lois, also inspires her about farming and family.

Educating his family and the community is a big part of Doug’s legacy. “It’s important to him that the kids know where food comes from,” said Brook. “Our kids participate in farmer’s markets, and with planting, harvesting and production. And Donna, our new driver, can now deliver local freshness. The kids have been selling since they could see over the counter. They’re learning both math and business skills.”

Together, multiple generations of Hoffbauers share the load of growing, harvesting, and selling their products. And, the philosophies behind how they farm – including using ethical, sustainable growing practices, selling products that grow well in our local soil and climate, and abiding by the phrase “grown, not flown,” also continue the legacy Farmer Doug started over 35 years ago.

Year-Round Operation

As any good farmer knows, there is a season for everything. While Duluth Flower Farm operates year-round, they strive to use what is local and in-season. If they cannot grow it themselves, they support other farmers when possible.

Spring on the farm brings annuals, veggie starts, hanging baskets, blueberry plants, strawberry plants, potted arrangements, and the kids help with collecting Farmer Doug’s maple syrup. In the spring at the Garden Center, they offer a full nursery, perennials, annuals and garden designs. With summer comes a wide assortment of fresh veggies, along with Duluth Flower Farm’s highly-popular dahlias and peonies, and about 100 other flower varieties.

Fall is the season for pumpkins, squash, gourds, apples, and Farmer Doug’s pick-your-own pumpkin patch. The Farm has a presence at a variety of local fall festivals and harvest fests.

Winter is when the evergreen business picks up. Balsam Fir is the most popular tree species used for Christmas trees and wreaths. Duluth Flower Farm’s hard-working designers create many wreaths, winter porch pots, kissing balls, gnomes, garlands, and more. They also ship their balsam wreaths from Balsamwreath.com, a website Derek created in college.

Besides the family, Duluth Flower Farm also employs several people. In the summer, they usually have four designers and two harvesters. During winter, they maintain a crew of about 20 people, who handle designing, shipping, harvesting, and other tasks.

Weddings, Funerals and Everyday Flowers

Duluth Flower Farm provides full floral services for funerals and weddings and also offers “just because” bouquets. “We offer a full design or a DIY option – we can pick the flowers with your event in mind and you can create your own wedding or event flower arrangements,” Brook shared. The design team is available and ready to work with couples and special event requests to bring their vision to life.

When it comes to weddings, they believe your wedding florals should be an experience that includes what is local and in-season at the time of your celebration. “We always start with what we grow,” Brook added. “We try to use what is fresh and in-season. If we don’t have it, then we partner with other farms. And if we can’t get our items locally, then we will use our full florist capabilities.”

Where to Purchase

The Duluth Flower Farm garden shop is now open year-round at 821 Hammond Ave in Superior.  They grow for many florists who support local farms, and they enjoy selling their products at Duluth’s Whole Foods Co-op stores. They maintain a presence at the Duluth Farmers Market, located at 1324 East 3rd Street, throughout the spring and summer.

Their shipping crew will ship many wreaths nationwide, from Balsamwreath.com. Duluth Flower Farm still has plenty of fresh centerpieces for the holiday season, available now.

And, a country farm stand held at Farmer Doug’s (3361 Lindahl Road), is open through much of the growing season, selling flowers, veggies, and more. The farm stand successfully operates using the “honor system.”

Most Rewarding

Being a farmer is incredibly hard work, but it isn’t without its rewards. Brook shared a story about a customer with a unique request, and a bittersweet backstory.

“We had one customer come in with a request for a uniquely-shaped Christmas tree to remember her late son by, and she shared their memories together around that tree. Each year we bring that tradition to life for his mother. We are honored to be invited into the stories our customers share with us, and it brings us such joy to be able to design with their stories in mind.”

“It’s also rewarding for us to teach the next generation about what’s local and in-season,” she added. “We want people to know what’s available locally, and to be inspired by nature. We also support and produce wreaths, swags and garland for several youth groups and school fundraisers. We are proud to help so many groups in our community!"

Where to Purchase

The Duluth Flower Farm is now open year-round at 821 Hammond Ave in Superior. Call 218-409-3061 for the florist shop. Visit balsamwreath.com to have a holiday wreath shipped anywhere to a friend or loved one. For their floral arrangements and services, go to duluthflowerfarm.com

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Shane Bauer Making Grandma’s Marathon Run - Community Leader Profile Series

–COMMUNITY LEADER PROFILE SERIES–
Shane Bauer - Making Grandma’s Marathon Run

Shane Bauer, Executive Director of Grandma's Marathon

Every June, the Northland is abuzz with excited runners, their families and friends, and local residents, who all take part in what has become the premier annual activity and kick-off to summer in Duluth, Grandma’s Marathon. 2023 will be the 47th annual run, with this year’s weekend of activities scheduled for June 16-17.

According to their website, “The race was started by a local group of runners in 1977, and has grown from just 150 participants its first year to now one of the largest and best-known marathons in the United States. Widely regarded as a world-class event with small-town charm, the race now welcomes more than 20,000 participants each June and brings close to $21M of economic impact to the region.”

Grandma's Marathon Starting Line. Photo grandmasmarathon.com

At the helm of this ambitious endeavor since 2015 is Executive Director Shane Bauer. He succeeded Scott Keenan, the founder of Grandma’s Marathon in 1977, who led the event as Executive Director for 37 years.

Bauer is not from the region originally but moved to Duluth in 1990 from North Dakota. He earned his degree in Design Technology with a minor in art from Bemidji State University.

Shane’s wife Jenny is a dance teacher of 23 years, mostly at Madill Dance Center and now in local preschools. She also works at the Duluth Airport.

Their daughter Hartley is a freshman at Rochester Institute of Technology in NY for Design/Illustration and is also a nationally recognized rock climber. Son Brock is a sophomore on the Denfeld track team who also likes curling.

Shane Bauer with his wife Jenny, with their daughter and son, Hartley and Brok. Submitted photo.

Artist, Entrepreneur, Event Coordinator, Grandma's Marathon

Shane worked as a graphic artist for the DNT until 2001, when he was hired as the Design Director and Expo coordinator at Grandma's Marathon. He and his wife also started a design business called Laughingstock Design in 2007, and opened a store called Happy Space in 2010.

His work in the community included establishing Art Jam for kids and working on the annual WDSE art and writing contest. Bauer also started the Twin Ports Bridge Festival in 2011. The event was a pep rally for humanity under a different theme each year (mental illness, water conservation, etc.). He had to end the Bridge Festival in 2015 when he took the Executive Director job at Grandma’s.

When he applied for the position, Shane was motivated by a desire to use his skills for Duluth. “At Grandma’s, I thought it was the best place for my contribution to the community,” Bauer said. “It has been my goal to set plans to deliver an extraordinary running experience for people from all over the world, and help kids to be active and conscious of living a healthy lifestyle.”

Quick to deflect credit from himself, Bauer added, "It’s a team effort that requires a completely different set of tasks each day. I work with a staff of nine full-time, year-round, plus a few part-time helpers and seasonal staff leading up to marathon weekend.”

He explained that every single day includes planning for the big marathon weekend. The next year is already being planned prior to the previous year’s event. Any remaining time is spent on all their other events throughout the year, including their Young Athletes’ Foundation which has given more than $1.3M back to the region's kids through grants, scholarships and more.

The Young Athletes Foundation is a Grandma's Marathon initiative. Photo from Young Athletes Foundation Facebook Page.

Bauer is also pleased about the international connections of Grandma’s including leadership with their sustainability initiative. He added, “We’re a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and our Program Director just returned from the Sport Positive Summit in London. We’re a signatory of the UN program and that’s where the carbon-neutral goal comes from. This is the first year that participants from all over the world can buy carbon offsets for their travel to Duluth in our registration process.”

He said, “On a more personal note, we also paid for all of Wesly Ngetich’s kids' schooling in Kenya over the years after he was killed by a poison arrow during the conflict over there in the earlier 2000s. He was a two-time champion of Grandma’s.”

Bauer credits the community, volunteers and sponsors of the race who are essential to making all the events surrounding the race work. “We are proud of the support from the community and the reputation of our events as a result of that support. Our volunteers are quite literally the heart of the event. They are the reason runners love to come here year after year. And Grandma’s Marathon weekend is impossible without their help.”

He explained, “Along with our volunteers, many of our sponsor relationships are decades long, and some of our sponsor contacts are like family. A majority of the budget each year is from registration, and sponsor support is by far the next biggest piece of the pie that allows us to put on a world-class event.”

“We are always looking for improved activities and events each year. For this summer, one focus is the Friday festival for kids/Whipper Snapper Races  Other goals are improvements in the broadcast of the race with our partners at WDIO and Townsquare Media, and also looking at improvements to the post-race experience,” Bauer added.

For more information about Grandma’s races and activities, visit their website at grandmasmarathon.com or visit their Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The story of the "Duluth Alphabet" by Artist Sam Nielsen

Art by SJ Nielsen

The story of the "Duluth Alphabet" by Artist Sam Nielsen
Last Chance to Buy - Before Image is Retired Forever

Artist SJ Nielsen with a print of the Duluth Alphabet. Photo submitted.

From “Canal Park” and “hungry seagulls” to “Va Bene” and “Zenith Bookstore,” there are a handful of words and phrases that simply encapsulate the essence of Duluth.

Local artist Sam Nielsen has captured this sentiment beautifully with her iconic Duluth Alphabet – an eye-catching print based on a watercolor painting she created in 2019. In it, she has selected and illustrated a Duluth-centric word or phrase to correspond to all 26 letters of the alphabet.

The print has become an epic success. Since its creation in 2019, the image has sold over 2,800 copies.

After three years of plentiful demand, however, Nielsen has decided it’s time to retire the print. She’s offering one final opportunity to buy the Duluth Alphabet: from December 1st – 6th, 2022.

You might be wondering why she would retire such a prolific piece. In her words:

“It was a pretty special experience that something so personal and sentimental to me was embraced by the entire community. The Duluth Alphabet was born from my wanting to live here and the fact that I have found so much peace here. And, it’s been my best-selling item. But I feel like it makes it more special to only have it around for a while.”

The Duluth Alphabet Print is available in 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20 until Dec. 6. Order at Art by SJ Nielsen

Love Affair with Duluth

Nielsen is originally from Redwood Falls, Minnesota. But her family visited Duluth often, and it was always her dream to live here someday.

“I grew up coming up to Duluth frequently to visit my aunt and uncle, Brenda and Daniel,” she explained. “I’ve wanted to live in Duluth since 1st grade. I told my mom that I was going to live in Duluth, in a yellow house. I’ve always felt at home here in every single way.”

Nielsen accomplished this goal about six and a half years ago. After graduating from Minnesota State University – Moorhead (MSUM), she landed a part-time job as an art teacher at Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program. She and her husband, Andreas – who is originally from Denmark – now live in the Denfeld neighborhood. Andreas works as a software tester.

In addition to being a full-time artist, Nielsen stays at home with the couple’s two children, Soren (2), and Maja (6 months). The Nielsen family is rounded out with their Boston Terrier, Rudy.

Living here has been the realization of a lifelong dream for Nielsen. “I never thought of moving to Duluth as a possibility,” she said. “But I really feel like we are supposed to be here.”

Art

Nielsen initially thought she would pursue music as a career. As an accomplished saxophonist and piano player, she thought she’d be a music teacher. But she also spent her childhood immersed in art. Her father was an art teacher, and he encouraged her pursuits in that direction.

She decided to pursue art education as her college major. “I wanted to be an art teacher, but I had no artistic skill whatsoever,” she said with a laugh.

During one of her first college-level art classes, though, one of her assignments was to fill an entire sketch book with drawings. “I stumbled on the art of urban sketching, and that was really a stepping stone for me,” she said. Her passion for art truly took off from there.

Today, Nielsen is a watercolor painter and urban sketcher. She creates and sells watercolor paintings, prints, stickers, bookmarks, enamel pins, coloring sheets, and has even created a Duluth Alphabet puzzle, making her iconic print into an activity everyone can enjoy. Her watercolor images are charming representations of things that inspire her; many are images of trees and other natural scenes.

In addition to her own website, artbysjnielsen.com, Nielsen’s products are sold in a few local establishments, including Hucklebeary, Duluth Pack, and North And Shore. Nielsen is also still a teacher. While she has left the traditional classroom setting behind, she teaches art courses on Skillshare, which she jokingly calls “the Netflix of creative learning,” and is a published author. Her book, “5 Minute Watercolor,” is available for purchase on Amazon.

Reason for the Alphabet

Prior to creating the Duluth Alphabet, Nielsen was working on some vinyl stickers based on her original paintings. “I don’t really remember there being an ‘a-ha moment’ with the Alphabet,” she said. “I had been creating a lot of vinyl stickers and used some of those images in the Alphabet.

The Duluth Alphabet Print is available in 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20 until Dec. 6. Order at Art by SJ Nielsen

“At that time, we were also trying to get pregnant,” she added. “And I thought a Duluth Alphabet would make a great decoration for a kid’s room. Really, I wanted to capture the area in a fun and whimsical way that would appeal to tourists and locals alike.”

After launching her art business in 2016, Nielsen released the Duluth Alphabet in 2019. She did no build-up and no promotion. But once people saw it – and Destination Duluth began sharing it – it became an overnight success.

For Nielsen, the connection with Destination Duluth became a huge blessing in her life. “I had known of Destination Duluth, and I very much admired them,” she noted. “When they shared the Duluth Alphabet and provided a link to my website, that had a massive impact on sales. I really felt like I had a ‘fangirl moment,’ because I admired them so much.

“I had never experienced sales like that before,” she said. “It really helped me realize that I can do big things.”

The Duluth Alphabet Print is available in 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20 until Dec. 6. Order at Art by SJ Nielsen

Not a Tourist Anymore

Now that Nielsen is living in her beloved adopted hometown, she feels like things have really come together in her life. She has a career she loves. She and Andreas love bringing the kids to Canal Park, Park Point, and many other well-loved locations. Together, the couple loves board games and soccer. And, Nielsen can also often be found at local cafes and restaurants, casually making sketches.

Her love for Duluth has even been a little contagious; Nielsen’s parents, Wade and Mary Margaret Mathers, moved to Duluth last summer.

She described the feeling of finally being a true Duluthian. “I know Canal Park is mostly a place for tourists, but it has a sentimental feeling for me since we always went there when I was a kid,” she said.

“And still, when we go to Canal Park in late fall, I say to my husband, ‘Isn’t it fun that this is the time most people leave, and we get to stay? We aren’t tourists anymore. It’s a very surreal thing.’”

Where to Purchase

The Duluth Alphabet will be available to purchase - for the very last time – from December 1st – 6th, 2022. Three print sizes are available: 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20.

Orders can be placed on Nielsen’s website, artbysjnielsen.com, and they will be shipped. Free shipping is available, using the code DULUTHABC. Nielsen will also be selling the prints at the Duluth Winter Village, held December 3rd – 4th.

“I feel like it’s time to close this chapter,” Nielsen said of the Alphabet’s final farewell. “I’m ready to close this door and see what’s next.”

The Duluth Alphabet Print is available in 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20 until Dec. 6. Order at Art by SJ Nielsen

 

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Bridgeman's History and the owners of the last Bridgeman's Restaurant

Duluth Bridgeman's Restaurant

Entrepreneurs Emily and Jay Broman – Owners of the last Bridgeman’s Restaurant and the Duluth Junk Hunt

When it comes to the stereotype of “Minnesota Nice,” entrepreneurs Jay and Emily Broman certainly fit the bill. Together, they own the world’s last Bridgeman’s Restaurant – right here in Duluth - and are also the founders and organizers of the Duluth Junk Hunt.

This humble, hard-working couple has worked hard to build their Duluth businesses into what they are today: thriving operations that locals and tourists alike enjoy visiting, again and again.

Bridgeman's owners Jay and Emily Broman. Photo submitted.

Bridgeman’s History

Bridgeman’s Ice Cream is a well-known and loved brand. The many Bridgeman's restaurants in days gone by are fondly remembered. But what many people don’t know is that it all started here in Duluth.

Back in 1883, Duluthian Henry Bridgeman founded a dairy business, where he delivered milk to local residents. He began by peddling fresh milk from home to home, using a goat cart. Bridgeman-Russell was founded in 1888, and incorporated in 1903 by Henry Bridgeman and Newell Francis Russell. Through hard work, persistence, quality products, and a little luck, their business grew into the largest dairy concern in the Midwest.

A postcard showing Duluth’s Bridgman-Russell Dairy ca. 1920. (Image: Zenith City Press)

Vintage Bridgeman Milk Bottle on ebay

Bridgeman Milk-Delivery Truck in Pennington County (MN) Fair Parade 2004. Photo pchs.org

In 1936, his sons, Chester and Roy, expanded the brand to include ice cream and opened the original Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Duluth. The brothers ultimately opened six Bridgeman Ice Cream Shoppes within eighteen months. Bridgeman’s restaurants later followed.

Over the next decades, many Bridgeman’s ice cream shoppes and restaurants opened across the United States. The restaurant franchise flourished in the 1970s and 1980s before being bought out in the early 1990s, then incurring a slow and steady decline.

Bridgemans Lakeside Restaurant at 4701 E Superior St. was destroyed by fire on May 7, 1988 according to Zenith City Online.

Last Bridgeman's Restaurant Standing

During high school, Jay Broman worked as a busboy for Bridgeman’s Restaurant, and truly enjoyed his time there. A number of years later, when he found out the owners of Bridgeman’s Restaurant by the mall were interested in selling, he jumped at the chance and bought the business in 2002.

Today, the Duluth location – at 2202 Mountain Shadow Drive - is the only Bridgeman’s Restaurant left. “There used to be a lot of different Bridgeman’s all over the place, but we are the only restaurant left,” Emily noted.

“Bridgeman’s Corporation is still located in Minneapolis, but is focused (only) on ice cream,” she added. “And Bridgeman’s still makes its ice cream in Wisconsin. However, we are independently owned. We buy our ice cream from them, but we do our own menu, restaurant design, etc."

The Bromans work hard to keep their “modern-style diner” exciting for customers. The menu – which the Bromans have created themselves - offers everything from mouth-watering burgers and salads to sundaes, shakes, “mega malts,” a Friday night fish fry, hearty breakfasts, and more.

The recently remodeled interior of Bridgeman's Restaurant, Duluth. Facebook page photo

In addition to the traditional Bridgeman's shakes and sundaes, they have creative "Mega Malts" Facebook page photo.

“Our customers appreciate our from-scratch meals,” Emily said. “Our burgers are fresh, never frozen, and our in-house baker creates delicious pies, cinnamon rolls, and soups – all from scratch.” Bridgeman’s also has a catering arm, and the restaurant caters for weddings, business events, and more.

New on the menu is the Southern Fried Chicken Salad. Facebook Page photo.

Emily attributes being the “last restaurant standing” to a few potential factors. “Hopefully, it’s due to good leadership,” she said. “But our menu is also really great. Our big, made-from-scratch breakfasts are served all day.

“And, our staff is incredible. The #1 compliment we receive is how great our employees are. A few have been there for 20+ years, and we have very low turnover.” Bridgeman’s currently has over 100 employees, many of whom are students.

Recently, the Bromans also added a food truck to their portfolio. “This year was our second summer with it, and it keeps us very busy,” Emily noted. “We mostly visit businesses – by invitation – and serve their staff. We aren’t doing any festivals or anything at this point.”

Duluth Bridgeman's new food truck. Facebook page photo.

The menu options are endless for Bridgeman’s expanded venues. “We like how we can go outside the box with the food truck and catering business,” she noted. “We can serve burgers and sandwiches, or items like Indian curries and Pad Thai – we can literally do anything. We have really talented chefs.”

The Bromans are also currently refurbishing a vintage Airstream trailer. They plan to somehow utilize it for Bridgeman’s operations in the future.

The Duluth Junk Hunt

Another of the Bromans’ initiatives is the Duluth Junk Hunt. The event, which started in 2012, is held the first weekend of May and November at the DECC.

Duluth Junk Hunt poster from the Nov. 2022 event. Photo Submitted

Here, 140+ unique booths are set up, and vendors sell antique, vintage, and repurposed items. This includes furniture, home décor, gardening pieces, and more. In addition to the Bromans and a few family members, many Bridgeman’s employees also work at this event.

When it comes to the vendors, most are local, but many also travel to attend. “Our vendors are mostly from Minnesota, but also from the surrounding states. We can have roughly 140 booths, and there’s always a waiting list,” Emily shared.

The Junk Hunt has been a perfect addition to Duluth’s shopping/antiquing scene. “We started the Junk Hunt here because there isn’t anything like it in Duluth,” Emily said. “We thought Duluthians would really love it.”

And love it, they do; the Duluth Junk Hunt typically sees about 5,000 shoppers per event.

Forever Duluth

Emily acknowledged that the restaurant industry is a busy, but rewarding one. “We’re both pretty involved, and very hands-on with the restaurant,” she noted. “Our work is very tiring, but we do love it.” When they have days off, the Bromans love to visit the North Shore or go for a walk in the woods on one of Duluth's many beautiful trails.

For the Bromans, Duluth is home. They never even considered relocating anywhere else. “We both love Duluth, and it’s never been a question as to whether we’d move,” Emily said.

“It’s so beautiful here. We drive by the lake and are constantly in awe that we live here. Duluth has everything you need. It’s quiet, and really the perfect size.”

For more info about Duluth Bridgeman’s Restaurant and catering business, including the menu, please visit duluthbridgemans.com. For information about the Duluth Junk Hunt, please visit duluthjunkhunt.com. Both businesses can also be found on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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Itinerary for a Historical Christmas Weekend in Duluth

Itinerary for a Historical Christmas Weekend in Duluth

Duluth has been known as the "Christmas City of the North," since the early 1960's, when Merv Griffin recorded a song about our wintery, city known for its holiday cheer. Here is a ready-made itinerary of some historic places to visit, along with Bentleyville, of course!

FRIDAY

Evening – Dinner at Duluth Bridgemans Restaurant. The last remaining Bridgeman’s restaurant is family owned and operated.  Bridgeman’s history goes back to 1883, in Duluth when an enterprising young man named Henry Bridgeman began peddling fresh milk, home to home, from a goat cart. Bridgeman’s ice cream is still a family favorite. Learn more about the restaurant at Duluth Bridgemans Restaurant. Learn more about the history of the famous ice cream at Bridgeman's ice cream.

SATURDAY

9:00 am - Breakfast at Boat Club Restaurant and Bar at Fitger's.

Then shop the 15+ stores in Fitgers – listed on the National Register of Historic Place, where craft beer was born in the 1880’s with A. Fitger & Co. / Lake Superior Brewery. Then have lunch at Fitger's Brew House

The historice Fitger's complex. Facebook page photo.

2:00 pm Tour Glensheen – Decorated with 25 Christmas Trees and 25 Hidden Elves in the 39 room mansion is a must-see. Get more info at tickets at bit.ly/GlensheenTickets

Glensheen's grand staircase has one of 25 Christmas trees throughout the 39-room mansion. Facebook photo.

4:00 pm – Dinner at Pier B Resort's Silos Restaurant directly across from Bentleyville with free parking and shuttle service to Bentleyville. Pro Tip: Make your reservation for Silos now – it is extremely busy during Bentleyville.

Silos Restaurant at the Pier B Resort is right next to Bentleyville. Facebook photo.

Alternative for families – Take the Christmas City Express – with hourly departures starting at 3:15. You’ll be treated to a classic book reading of the new Christmas City Express story, enjoy carolers, and a visit from a special guest! Then climb aboard the train for a short 30-minute ride up to Lake Superior. Onboard, enjoy complimentary hot chocolate, cookies and holiday tunes. Tickets include admission to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. Get info and tickets at bit.ly/ChristmasCityExpress. Pro Tip: Get tickets early as they sell out.

"All aboard" the Christmas City Express at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. Facebook photo.

8:00 pm – Tour Bentleyville – with 5 million lights, @Bentleyville is the largest free outdoor display in the country. Pro Tip: Bentleyville is open until 10 pm, and the best time on the weekend is 9 pm. Get more info at bit.ly/Bentleyville2022

An aerial view of Bentleyville. Photo by Dennis O'Hara.

SUNDAY

10:00 am – Brunch at Dovetail Cafe & Market at 1917 W Superior St in the Lincoln Park Craft District. Built in 1915, by the Minnesota Tea Company, it was gutted and restored to its original charm five years ago.  In addition to the café (where they roast their own coffee), the building houses the Duluth Folk School and a marketplace with items from local artisans. Read more on the restoration of the building at bit.ly/DuluthFolkSchoolHistory

The storefront of Duluth Folk School and Dovetail Cafe & Marketplace. Photo by Madison Hunter

12:00 pm – Visit the Richard I Bong Memorial Center in Superior. Bong, from nearby Poplar WI, was a WW2 Flying Ace. The Mission of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is to honor the memory of Major Bong and all the veterans of WWII and later conflicts whose sacrifices maintain our Freedoms. Learn more at bit.ly/RicardIBongCenter

A replica of the plane Richard I Bong flew. Photo from their Facebook page.

2:00 pm – Visit Superior’s Fairlawn Mansion and Museum, just two blocks down the street from the Bong Center – Built in 1891 as the family home for lumber and mining baron, Martin Pattison, his wife Grace and their six children. Fairlawn became a children’s home in 1920 until it closed in 1962. Get more info at bit.ly/FairlawnMuseumDD

The Fairlawn Mansion and Museum is decorated for the holidays. Facebook page photo.

 

 

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Adam Bjornberg Photographer Profile

Adam Bjornberg

Destination Duluth
Photographer Profile Series

Adam Bjornberg - Bjornberg Photography
Creating Plenty of Buzz with his Captivating Local Images

Photographer Adam Bjornberg was auspiciously gifted a last name that perfectly encapsulates his interests. In Swedish, Bjorn translates to bear, and berg means mountain.

As an outdoor and maritime photographer, bears and mountains – among other muses – provide great inspiration for Bjornberg. He has capitalized on this good fortune by incorporating both a bear and a mountain into the logo for his business – Bjornberg Photography.

Adam Bjornberg Photography

Despite being relatively new to photography, Bjornberg’s captivating images – including maritime and shipping activity, along with outdoor landscapes - are creating a lot of buzz. He has already won awards, enjoyed a month-long exhibition at a Minnesota state park, and had several photos selected for publication.

“It’s been a wild couple of years,” he noted. “And, it all fell into place once I moved to Duluth. That really sparked my passion for photography.”

Childhood

Bjornberg grew up in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, and graduated from White Bear Lake High School in 2011. The eldest of four siblings, he enjoyed ice hockey, baseball, and golf in his youth. The family spent plenty of time together in Duluth during Bjornberg’s ice hockey tournaments.

He first became interested in photography in his youth. “I took a couple of photography classes in high school, and got to work with film in the dark room,” he explained. “But at that time, I didn’t have a lot of money to invest in photography.”

Thankfully, Bjornberg later learned that taking successful photos is more about having talent and a good eye than owning expensive equipment.

Photo by Adam Bjornberg.

Bjornberg attended the University of North Dakota – Grand Forks, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental geography with an emphasis in geographic information systems (GIS). Bjornberg also met his fiancée, Kennedy Fenster, while the two were students at UND.

Moving to Duluth

In February 2019, Bjornberg was hired at SkySkopes, a Geospatial service provider. As a remote sensing project lead, he plans flights and receives and processes data captured by drone and helicopter pilots.

Both Bjornberg and Fenster have always loved Duluth and had long considered moving here. She is originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, but, like Bjornberg, also made childhood trips here. And, during college, the couple enjoyed several short getaways to Duluth.

Fortunately, Bjornberg works remotely and was able to make the leap. And, Fenster soon landed a job at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, as an Office Administrator. The couple moved here in December 2019.

“We’re both really outdoorsy people,” he noted. “We’ve taken five-day backcountry trips in Montana, and Duluth was like a stepping point – it feels like a small-scale mountain town. I’ve always had an interest in being by the water, and love the nautical, lake feel.”

Photo by Adam Bjnornberg

Photography

Getting back into photography was initially a way for Bjornberg to make new friends. “It was hard to meet people here,” he said. “We moved here during COVID, and I work remotely.”

He began by taking some basic images, using basic equipment. “It all started with my iPhone, taking pictures and videos and posting them on my personal Facebook page. I was fascinated with the shipping industry and joined the Lake Superior Ports and Shipping Facebook group.

“I continued sharing my work and people commented, saying they liked my eye for photography,” he added. “That led me to buy my first camera and lens – a Canon 6D camera, and a 70-200mm lens.

“Eventually, I found people who tagged Duluth on social media,” he noted. “I asked them to join in for photo shoots and now I have friends who are photographers of all age groups.”

Photo by Adam Bjornberg.

Accolades

Interestingly, despite only having a couple of years of experience, Bjornberg has already found much success. His photos have over 2 million views on Destination Duluth’s Facebook page. He sells his photos on SmugMug. His 2023 Ships on Lake Superior can be purchased here. A local business – Harbor Rail Pub, Loft & Events, in Two Harbors – has several of his images on display.

Bjornberg was invited to display his images for a month-long exhibition at Split Rock Lighthouse in August 2022, and his photos were also available for purchase at the gift shop. Four of his photos were selected for publication in the 2023 calendar for the Interlake Steamship Company. And he took 1st and 3rd place in a photo contest for the 2021 Great Lakes Seaway Partnership.

He's also had the opportunity to be a part of some really fun gigs, thanks to the connections he’s made from photography. “Last year I was asked to join ice-breaking operations around the harbor on board the United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Hollyhock,” he explained. “I also got to be a part of welcoming Resko, the first saltie (ocean-going) vessel of the year. This entailed going onboard, meeting some of the crew, and seeing the loading operations of grain. I was privileged in documenting the USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul commissioning ceremony.

Bjornberg aboard the USS Minneapolis St Paul. Photo by David Schauer

“With this, I was involved in media day, and got to tour the brand-new Navy warship as well as attend the ceremony as a photographer,” he added. “Lastly, I was asked if I wanted to capture the first cruise ship arrival in 13 years this summer, from the aerial lift bridge [with the bridge operator]. All of these experiences have been from my photography, and ones that I will surely not forget!”

Viking Octantis entering the Duluth port. Photo by Adam Bjornberg

Not too shabby for less than two years of experience, and is mainly self-taught.

Bjornberg insists it’s more about having a good eye than having the fanciest tools. “I want other photographers to know that you don’t have to go out and buy the latest and greatest equipment,” he shared. “I bought two refurbished pieces of equipment. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be a good photographer.”

Favorite Spots

Bjornberg has already established several of his favorite local hotspots for taking photos. “My niche is the maritime industry and ships, and I really like the arrivals, departures, and what’s happening behind the scenes,” he said. “There are a couple of public locations throughout the harbor that have public access, but I will also cross the harbor for a shot, or take a photo from up above on the hillside.”

When it comes to his outdoor images, Bjornberg prefers the Gunflint Trail for wildlife, and Palisade Head and Boulder Lake for capturing the aurora borealis. Most of his favorite spots, however, are in Duluth, Superior, and Two Harbors.

Crashing waves of November 10, 2022 storm. Photo by Adam Bjnornberg

Personal

Bjornberg and Fenster live in the Lincoln Park neighborhood with their two Golden Retrievers, Ollie and Calvin. The couple are eagerly making plans for their wedding, and dream of purchasing a home of their own someday. They are also excited to share that they are expecting a baby, due in February 2023.

Bjornberg also enjoys hockey (a life-long interest), skiing, and mountain biking. Together, the couple enjoys doing beach and spring cleanups. “I will often just pick up trash by the beach and water. I try my best to make it a better place,” he noted.

Adam Bjornberg and his fiance Kennedy Fenster are expecting a baby in February. Submitted photo.

Reflections on Duluth

Looking ahead, Bjornberg loves his job and wants to continue growing within his current company. He also wants to focus on his photography. The couple plan to make Duluth their permanent home.

Reflecting on life as a “transplant,” he said, “Duluth does an extremely good job of hosting events, at any time throughout the year. There wasn’t a whole lot to do outside of the college-hosted events in Grand Forks. We enjoy Bentleyville, the ice festival in Superior, the DECC’s winter village, and of course, there are plenty of trails for hiking and biking. There is almost too much to choose from.”

To check out more of Adam Bjornberg’s photography, please visit Bjornberg Photography Smugmug Page and the Bjornberg Photography Facebook Page.

 

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Fine Dining and Entertainment at The Boat Club Restaurant at Fitger's

The Boat Club Restaurant
Fantastic Food, Service, Ambiance and Entertainment
On the Sparkling Shores of Lake Superior

The Boat Club Restaurant, located in the lower level of Duluth’s historic Fitger’s Brewery Complex, is a nautically simplistic space inspired by the amazing view of Lake Superior right out the dining room windows, and the rich Duluth boating and shipping history.

Submitted photo.

Jason Vincent and Jeff Anderson began their restaurant journey in July 2014 when they purchased the Vanilla Bean Restaurant in Two Harbors. Over the years, the two made significant improvements to the restaurant, establishing it as a North Shore destination for locals and tourists.

In February 2018, they opened their second location of Vanilla Bean Restaurant in the Mount Royal Shopping Center in Duluth.  “We often say Vanilla Bean is an upscale diner - we prepare great, made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch entrees in a clean, comfortable environment,” Vincent noted.

In January 2017, Vincent and Anderson also acquired the former Midi Restaurant space inside Fitger’s and created their latest brand – The Boat Club Restaurant and Bar.

Jeff Anderson and Jason Vincent,  Co-owners of The Boat Club Restaurant and Bar. Submitted photo.

“Jeff and I had heard the previous restaurant, Midi, would be closing in Fitger’s, and the owner was looking for someone to take over her lease and buy her out of her inventory. We had always loved dining at that restaurant, and thought we could really bring a great, unique restaurant concept to Fitger's that tied in perfectly with the space,” Vincent said.

He added, “We are one of the only restaurants in Duluth focusing our menu offerings on fresh fish and seafood, along with high-end, hand-cut steaks and unique pasta dishes. We love being the restaurant you choose to celebrate life's special occasions or take family, friends, or colleagues to showcase the best of what Duluth has to offer.”

Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner daily, they have an extensive menu with something for everyone. Their breakfast menu includes eggs, breakfast meats, salmon, hash browns, home-fried potatoes, fruit, pancakes, omelets, skillets, crepes, a few varieties of Eggs Benedict, and more.

For lunch, diners can select from an equally wide menu, including Boat Club’s signature clam chowder, salads, crab cakes, wraps, tacos, lobster BLTs, walleye, chicken and burgers.

Crabby Benny at The Boat Club. Photo from their Facebook page.

The dinner menu starts with a great selection of appetizers, soup, and salads, and entrees focusing on surf and turf with seafood linguine, lobster primavera, and other seafood options including walleye, salmon, halibut, sea scallops, king crab, sautéed shrimp, coconut shrimp and grilled lobster tail. Their juicy and delectable steak offerings include  New York Strip, Filet Mignon, Ribeye and Steak Tip Alfredo.

The Boat Club’s drink menu includes an impressive list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, hand-crafted cocktails and craft beers. They have Happy Hour daily from 4pm-6pm.

When the weather allows, they also have outdoor seating with an even more closeup view of Lake Superior. The Boat Club was an Open Table Diners’ Choice for 2022 and a Traveler’s Choice on Tripadvisor. They also host special events and banquets for parties, conferences, wedding receptions and more.

In addition to the restaurant, as part of their lease agreement, Anderson and Vincent manage the Spirit of the North Theatre on the third floor and determine what programming takes place there and in the next-door August Fitger Room.

“We thought it would be great for our community to have another local, professional theatre company, so we began Boat Club Productions,” said Vincent. “The charm of the Spirit of the North Theatre is its size, as it's only 144 seats, and you feel fully immersed in the theatrical experience.”

He noted, “We had a wonderful first full season of productions in the Spirit of the North Theatre. We opened the season with “Tuesdays with Morrie,” a touching, intimate production that really took audiences on an emotional journey. We followed that up with “Nunsense, A Musical Comedy,” our first musical production since Boat Club Productions began. We had a tremendous show, with great audience reviews.”

Nunsense, A Musical Comedy at the Spirit of the North Theatre at Fitger's

Vincent explained, “We will wrap up the 2022 season with “A Don't Hug Me Christmas Carol,” (December 9-18), a hilarious spoof on the Charles Dickens’ classic set in a rural Minnesota bar haunted by the ghost of Christmas past. All of our productions have exceeded our expectations for attendance, and we hope to continue growing upon them as the word spreads.”

Boat Club offers a family holiday experience with “Breakfast with Santa” on December 10, 11, 17 and 18. Tickets are available online at Breakfast With Santa

Boat Club Productions also features monthly Stand-Up Comedy in the Fitger's Comedy Lounge in the August Fitger Room, with appearances from professional comedians from across the nation.

Stand-up comedy is offered at the Fitger's Comedy Lounge.

“We are planning our first-ever Boat Club Productions Gala in the August Fitger Room and Spirit of the North Theatre on Saturday, January 21,” said Vincent.  “All proceeds will benefit our theatrical performances, including production team and actor salaries, theatre upgrades and production expenses.”

Vincent concluded, “Fitger’s has old-world charm and sophistication, which fits perfectly with our restaurant. We are so proud to help elevate the experience for guests when they visit Fitger's and The Boat Club Restaurant. Our productions are an extension of that experience. We are giving our guests not only a fantastic dining experience at The Boat Club, but an opportunity to sit back and take their mind off the stress of daily life with a top-notch theatrical production.”

For more info and reservations, visit their Facebook page, their website at boatclubrestaurant.com or call (218) 727-4880.

 

 

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Bentleyville's history, people, finances, and special moments behind the 5-million lights 

Dennis O'Hara
Bentleyville is open nightly (including holidays) from November 19 - December 26. 
More than 50% of the displays are new for 2022, including the gigantic "Grand Castle" entrance

The Bentleyville tour of lights has been an amazing triumph for Duluth.

The annual, walk-through holiday light display - featuring over five million lights, live characters, refreshments, and a large variety of themed displays - typically welcomes an astonishing 300,000+ visitors per year. While many are local residents, others come from far and wide to visit Bentleyville. In fact, Visit Duluth estimates that the event provides between $21-22 million in annual economic impact.

But, beyond the astounding influx of tourism and cash for the local economy, Bentleyville is also doing great things for the community. Each year, the event collects and distributes thousands of pounds of food, and thousands of children’s toys, for the less fortunate. Nineteen years after its inception, Bentleyville remains free to the public, as it has since day one. Bentleyville has free admission for all guests, as well as free hot cocoa & coffee, free cookies, free freshly popped popcorn, free marshmallows to roast, and free visits with Santa & Mrs. Claus!

“As long as I’m at the helm, it will always be free,” said founder/creator/namesake, Nathan Bentley. “That’s part of the uniqueness of it all. A lot of people don’t have extra disposable income – especially at that time of year.”

Please Note: Parking is $10 per vehicle near the attraction, but if you're willing to hike a little, free street parking is available downtown after 5:30 pm.

Nathan Bentley

Nathan Bentley, the founder, mastermind and "Mayor of Bentleyville." Photo submitted.

Nathan Bentley is first and foremost a businessman. He has owned Advantage Emblem, a screen printing and embroidery business, since the age of 18.

But he also has a heart of gold and enjoys doing acts of service to help others. In addition to creating and maintaining Bentleyville, he spends four months of every year in Laos. Here, he helps renovate schools and installs infrastructure like roads and lighting.

Bentley and his wife, Tricia, have been married for 32 years, and have four adult kids: Aryanah (28), Austin (26), Abbey (24), and Alex (22). The family has also grown to include a grandson, Zion (2). The Bentley family also includes three “Doodle” dogs: a Sheepadoodle, a Goldendoodle, and a Mini Bernedoodle.

A 1000' ship navigates under the Aerial Lift Bridge passing by Bentleyville. - Photo by Dennis O'Hara.

History

Bentley explained a little about how Bentleyville began. “It was a complete accident,” he noted with a chuckle. “It wasn’t built on purpose. I was just trying to put up more lights than my neighbor had.”

The holiday display celebrated its first year at the Bentley family home in Esko, in 2001. When the family moved to Cloquet, Bentleyville did, too. It remained there for the next four years.

As the number of lights and displays grew, people took notice. “One of my employees facetiously called it ‘Bentleyville,’ as a jab. Kind of like Whoville,” Bentley explained.

Bentley leaned into the joke, and ultimately embraced it. He put up a Bentleyville banner, and added apple cider and cookies - and the people just kept coming.

“Eventually, people started putting $1s and $5s under the Christmas tree I had by my shed to help contribute,” Bentley said. “I like to say it was organically grown.”

The Giant Castle entrance seen in this photo is being replaced this year with a new 74' wide x 24' tall entrance. Photo by Dennis O'Hara.

A Big Move

In 2008, former Duluth mayor Don Ness approached Bentley about relocating the display to Bayfront Festival Park. Bentley’s response? “Sure, we’ll try it.”

The event took a year off in 2009, while Bentleyville and City leadership focused on planning for the future. Power, infrastructure, and parking, among other topics, had to be figured out.

The event roared back, bigger than ever, in 2010 and now is America's largest free walk-through holiday display.

Budget

Bentleyville has come a long way from its modest beginnings in Esko. The event now has an annual budget of $800,000, which includes:

  • $200,000 for new lights and displays
  • $60,000 for stocking caps, which are free for children
  • $45,000 for cookies, hot cocoa, and popcorn, which are free for guests, at the Cookie House
  • $15,000 for restroom facilities
  • $8,000 for cookies given out by Santa
  • $9,000 for power bills

Other significant expenses include snow removal, equipment rentals, zip ties, trucking costs, insurance, costumes, and infrastructure.

Bentley noted that as part of the agreement for the move, the City of Duluth pays for Bentleyville’s power bills. Bentley unfortunately gets some flak from the community about this expense. His response? “That money comes from tourism, and it’s a very small portion of our budget. We spend more in zip ties than we do on the power bill.”

Funding

Bentleyville is a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity; as such, funding comes from a variety of sources.

Bell Bank, along with a variety of other corporate sponsors, helps pay the bills. There are also annual fundraising events, like the Chip in Fore Bentleyville golf scramble and a candy bar sale. Funding is rounded out by donations, parking lot revenue (parking in a nearby lot costs $10), and retail revenue from the Bentleyville gift shop.

For those who want to contribute, financial donations are always welcomed and accepted. People are also encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and new, unwrapped toys for kids and teens. These items are donated to, and distributed by, the Salvation Army, and shared with seven regional locations.

There are free cookies, cocoa, popcorn and marshmallows for roasting over the fire pits. In addition, children 10 and under who visit Santa will receive a free stocking cap. Photo by Dennis O'Hara

Volunteers NEEDED!

It takes a giant team to host Bentleyville every year. Volunteers are needed nightly for the Marshmallow Hut, Popcorn Box, Fire Pits, Cookie House and Greeters. Learn more about volunteering and sign up by clicking here

At the top of the volunteer list is Nathan Bentley who is is accompanied by his long-time assistant, Tim Rogentine.

Volunteers also include an 11-person Executive Board of Directors, who meet monthly to discuss budgets, contracts, and other high-level items. The Operations Committee (also called “Red Coat Staff”) consists of 30 people who coordinate all details, and work as hands-on decision makers for the event.

There is a 7-person sewing group, who make costumes for the live characters at Bentleyville, including Santa, Mrs. Claus, reindeer, penguins, snowmen, and more.

A group of four welding volunteers provide the welding and repairs for all the steel and aluminum displays. The Ironworkers Local #512 also volunteer to handle the set-up and take-down of displays and the enormous metal Christmas tree every year.

And, a local artist, Barry Pirkola, creates drawings and renderings of new displays every year. Bentley sends these drawings to his contacts in Southeast Asia, where the new displays are manufactured.

The Aerial Lift Bridge is the backdrop of many displays at Bentleyville. Photo by Dennis O'Hara

What’s New?

This year will bring some exciting new changes to Bentleyville. “This will be the first year that between 50-60% of our displays are new,” Bentley said. “We really wanted to do an overhaul.”

A huge, new gift shop will be added this year, too, with plenty of Bentleyville merch available for purchase. Previously, the gift shop was 800 square feet; this year, it will be 4,000 square feet.

And, the grand entrance castle display is being replaced this year. It is a custom-made, 72’ long, 24’ high behemoth, welcoming guests to Bentleyville.

With next year being a milestone anniversary, big changes are coming to 2023, too. “We try to make things fresh for photo opportunities every year,” Bentley said. “But with next year being our 20th anniversary, we have big plans.”

Special Memories

Over the years, Bentley has witnessed some amazing memories being made. “People have had their first date there and gotten engaged there,” he shared.

“Couples have even gotten married there,” he added. “In fact, we host between 3-4 weddings a year.

“People also name their kids and dogs after Bentleyville! It’s really fun that the next generation is also bringing their kids. I enjoy seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, and just watching them have a good time.”

Schedule

Bentleyville Tour of Lights opens Saturday, November 19th, and runs through Monday, December 26th. The event is open from 5-9 PM Sundays - Thursdays, and 5-10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

There will be fireworks on opening night, and Santa and Mrs. Claus are planning to continue their annual tradition of skydiving in to kick things off.

For more information, go to BentleyvilleUSA.org

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Brothers Michael and Robert Lillegard of Duluth’s Best Bread

Brothers Michael and Rober Lillegard of Duluths Best Bread
The Unlikeliest of Bakers

According to famed chef James Beard, “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

Duluth’s Best Bread decidedly makes daily “feasts” for their legions of enthusiastic customers at both their locations: Lincoln Park at 2632 W 3rd St. and their new Downtown Duluth HART Location at 120 E Superior St.

Robert and Michael Lillegard, owners of Duluth’s Best Bread, never anticipated that their choice of unlikely careers would lead them down a path filled with loaves of crusty bread, crispy baguettes, buttery croissants, and a multitude of delectably sweet treats.

Robert and Michael Lillegard, owners of Duluth's Best Bread. –Submitted photo.

Older brother Robert said jokingly, “We pride ourselves on being overeducated for jobs.” He was a humanities major who went on to be a successful food writer for the New York Times and other publications.

Micheal has a masters degree in mathematics. And while he has ended up using math frequently in the bakery biz, he never planned to spend his days kneading bread, twisting giant pretzels into shape, and running a couple of very successful bakeries with his brother.

Serendipity struck when Robert and Micheal took a trip to New York City with their parents. Falling in love with the city’s wood-fired pizza, they decided they must try to duplicate it at home by building their own backyard pizza oven.

They discovered that after their oven cooled from the 800 degrees required to make the pizza, they had enough heat left to bake bread as well.

Michael used his math skills, cookbooks, and ingenuity, and after test trials of 2,000 loaves, he found the best recipe for his bread, and what eventually turned into the foundational product for Duluth’s Best Bread.

“Michael started making bread and got really good at it. I write about food, and decided this would be a great business for us to do together,” Robert explained.

Duluth Best Bread’s method is to make each loaf by hand, the traditional way with a lengthy recipe and a process that takes five hours. Made with just flour, water, salt and wild yeast, it is then cold fermented three days to develop flavor. Baking it at high heat and high moisture in an imported French bread oven develops their legendary crust and a dense, chewy interior.

A loaf of Duluth's Best Bread. –Facebook page photo.

Their humble retail beginnings involved a card table and hawking their wares at farmer’s markets. Along the way, they did popups, a stint at the Endion Station in Canal Park and selling one day a week in Lincoln Park. “We kept expanding our hours and numbers of days of the week and would sell out. We kept hearing, ‘Are you the bakery brothers who are never open?’” So, they started on their way to becoming a Lincoln Park favorite. And this August, adding their downtown location has brought an even wider group of fans into their circle of devotees.

Another way they have gotten the word out about their products is through their monthly subscription boxes. According to their website, the subscription boxes are a way to “become a taste tester and get new treats and breads before anyone else . . . allowing patrons to try our very best new products every month and offer their opinions.”

The Lillegards' sister, Kathryn Nichols, with one of the popular Taste Tester Boxes. –Submitted photo.

Each month features a different fun theme with subscribers able to order the breads  box, the treats box or a combination of both. Some popular themes have included holiday, romance, childhood, Minnesota, Wisconsin, French and German boxes.

Their incredibly popular cheese curd bread, now on their regular menu, came from their subscription box “State Fair” theme. It is described on the Facebook page as “Crusty on the outside with chewy curds on the inside; this evokes the mouthfeel of a fried curd without all the heaviness. It’s already halfway to grilled cheese, so toast it up and try it with butter . . . or slap on some ham and ranch dressing for the ultimate Minnesota sandwich.”

Their sweet treats are becoming legendary as well. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune referred to their pecan caramel rolls as the “best breakfast ever.” Their list of fun new flavors of the breads and treats they keep adding seem endless including Cool Ranch Doritos Sourdough, Cocoa Pebbles Brownies, Kraft Mac and Cheese Sourdough, Funfetti Oreos, and Pizza Roll Danishes.

Duluth's Best Bread Pecan Caramel Roll. –Facebook page photo.

Recently, their beloved “Uber Big Fat German Pretzels” went from one pound to when Michael, on a lark, made a one-time 17-pound pretzel for Octoberfest. The pretzels and many of their other products are available at wholesale locations, bars, restaurants and grocery stores.

The 17-pound pretzel. –Facebook photo.

Splitting the duties with both wearing many hats, the brothers have managed to keep a sense of humor and to keep their family lives important too.

Duluth’s Best Bread has become a real family affair with the brothers’ wives and even their kids often pitching in to help. Robert and his wife Alicia have three daughters, a seven-month old baby, a pre-schooler, and a second-grader; Michael and his wife have a one-year-old daughter.

Michael and Christine Lillegard

Robert and Alicia Lillegard family. Submitted photo.

Their children have come been regulars at the shops, starting when they were babies. “The kids love the bakeries,” said Robert. “They love the bread; we have even used small pieces of baguette for teething.”

With their success and a second location, they have grown from eight employees to eighteen, including four full-time night bakers. Michael noted, “I am most proud of the people we have hired. We work hard to be good bosses to our employees, to pay them well and treat them well. It is a happy and positive work environment.”

Angel greets customers at the new location at 120 E Superior St. –Facebook photo.

The brothers say that their mission is “to bake incredible products,” and their reason is because “they delight people.” They also often donate the extra food they have left over to food shelves and homeless shelters.

The Duluth’s Best Bread Facebook page demonstrates Robert’s gift for sarcastic and comic writing and is worth a visit not only for what new products they are featuring, but also for the humor. A few of his one-liners: “There are many good bakeries in Duluth, but we are the loudest and most obnoxious” and “Duluth’s Best Bread: We Keep The Butter Industry In Business.”

Both locations are open Tuesday-Saturday  6 am to 1 pm. For more information, visit their website at duluthsbestbread.com

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Dan Hanger – Local News Anchor Shares his Duluth Story

Submitted Photo

Dan Hanger – Local News Anchor Shares his Duluth Story

For well-known local news anchor Dan Hanger, Duluth hasn’t always been home. He moved to the Twin Ports from Chicago in 2006, after landing a job at local NBC affiliate KBJR-6. He’s been captivated with the area ever since.

“I drove up for my interview at KBJR, and at that time, all I knew was the big city and the suburbs of Chicago,” he said. “I saw Duluth’s huge hills and the lake, and I said, ‘Oh my God; what did I get myself into?’ I had pictured some cornfield, and thought it would be a dinky little place.”

Ultimately, the Twin Ports grew on him, and Hanger decided to make his home here. “I thought I’d only be here for 6 months,” he said. “And now I’m at the point where I might stay forever. Quality of life is huge here. There’s no traffic, and Duluth has everything, for the most part, a big city has to offer.”

Growing up in Chicago

Hanger grew up in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb 20 minutes outside of Chicago. His father, Jim Hanger, worked as a firefighter and police officer. His mother, Charissee Caputo, worked for the local parks and recreation department. Hanger has one sibling; a younger sister, Krystle (36).

Hanger’s self-professed obsession with the TV news industry started early in life. “It started out with weather,” he explained. “I’ve always been fascinated with storms. I begged my dad for tornado-chasing videos.”

But as he continued watching local news, he became interested in everything the industry had to offer, including lighting, set design, logos, music, and on-air talent. At age 12, he boldly e-mailed local NBC news affiliate WMAQ-TV, with critiques on their newscast, and advice on how to improve.

The woman who replied to that e-mail, Diana Borri, was impressed with Hanger’s chutzpah. Years later, Borri helped hire him, and she remains his professional mentor to this day.

Hanger eventually got the opportunity to tour the news station, and saw all the people he had admired for years, up close and personal. “It was like Disneyland to me – no joke,” he said.

Ultimately, Hanger decided to pursue broadcast journalism and earned a degree from Columbia College Chicago in 2005.

Younger years in journalism

Over the years, Hanger has held several roles in the industry. He was first hired as an unpaid web intern at CBS-2/WBBM TV in Chicago. Later, Borri helped hire him as a “web hub editor” at WMAQ, where he stayed through his junior and senior years of college. And, he loved every minute of it. “I was obsessed,” he said. “I just loved being in the newsroom.”

After college graduation, Hanger posted his résumé on the website tvjobs.com, and was pleased to land job interviews in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Duluth, Minnesota.  After his interview at KBJR, he “got an offer on the spot,” and moved to Superior in 2006.

While at KBJR, Hanger was first a “one-man band,” where he handled the reporting, photography, writing, and editing of his news stories. He was promoted to news anchor in 2007.

In 2007 Hanger was promoted to news anchor at KBJR. Submitted photo.

But the days were long, Hanger was young, and he was having perhaps a bit too much fun going out with his new friends. One day he overslept; a cardinal sin for a morning news anchor.

After two years, he was let go from KBJR. Hanger, flooded with shame and embarrassment, wondered what to do next.

He worked on some freelance projects for a time, followed by a sales and marketing job at Townsquare Media. He even sold cars at Miller Hill Subaru. “I sold a used car to my friend, and definitely sold less than five total,” he said with a chuckle. “After a while, though, I asked myself, ‘What am I doing with my life?’”

FOX-21

Hanger dreamed of getting back into the news business. Ultimately, he got his chance; a reporter position opened up at FOX-21/KQDS-TV. He was hired in 2010 and became an anchor in 2011.

With hard work, dedication, and deep gratitude for second chances, Hanger has continued moving up the ladder at the station. Today, he holds the prestigious three-prong title of anchor/reporter/producer and loves his work. Hanger also speaks highly of his boss, news director Steve Goodspeed, as well as his longtime news director before that, Dan Clouse.

“I’m so interested in stuff,” he said. “I want to get the truth for people. I feel I’m fair and upfront, and having built connections and trust, I can get stories done fast. I want to make an impact.”

Hanger also firmly believes that his honesty and authenticity help him connect with his audience. “People are so genuine here,” he noted. “They aren’t about showing off.”

Viewers can catch Hanger anchoring the FOX-21 evening newscasts on weekdays, at 5:30 and 9:00 pm.

Submitted photo.

Awards and Volunteering

Throughout his career, Hanger has received three Eric Sevareid awards for excellence in journalism; in 2011, 2017, and 2019. Giving back to the community is also important to him.

Hanger regularly volunteers his time as an emcee for a variety of charitable events, including the Animal Allies Fur Ball, the Duluth Art Institute’s Masquerade Gala, and the Northern Lights Foundation’s Children’s Charity Gala.

He has also done plenty of volunteer fundraising for Duluth’s Polar Plunge, which benefits Special Olympics athletes. His efforts have produced a fruitful $14,664 for the cause since 2012.

Hanger has participated numerous times in the  "Duluth Polar Plunge"

Hanger also served as Grand Marshall for the Duluth-Superior Pride Festival in 2015, along with his FOX-21 colleague and then co-anchor, Diane Alexander. Hanger, who is gay, said, “I don’t really like labels, but I feel it’s important for me to use my voice whenever I can to help the LGBTQ community.”

Personal Life

Hanger currently lives in Superior with his beloved dog, Brewster, a 12-year-old terrier/boxer mix he adopted from the Hibbing Humane Society. The two first became acquainted while Hanger was on assignment.

Brewster riding with Hanger in a side-by-side. Submitted photo.

Hanger is also a big fan of the local art/music/theater scene and enjoys cooking and brewery culture. He holds surprisingly high regard for Duluth’s pizza options; an impressive compliment from a Chicago native.

“I’m shocked at how many places here have authentic pizza,” he said. “I love Sammy’s, Vitta Pizza, Pizza Luce, and Thirsty Pagan. Every time my Chicago friends come up, I take them out for pizza.”

Hanger, who is currently single, has always felt that his lifestyle has been accepted in the Twin Ports. “In Duluth, I felt like you really needed to … keep your tie straight … back in 2006,” he said. “But if you look at Duluth today, you can be open anywhere and everywhere. I thought I’d be the only gay person when I came here in 2006. But Duluth is a really progressive city for its size.”

Dan Hanger with friends at an event at Bayfront Festival Park. Submitted Photo.

Hanger’s future goals include paying off debt, purchasing a home of his own (with a yard), and traveling. He also wants to spend more time with his niece, Maci, and nephew, Cole.

Home

Despite growing up in Chicago, with everything the big city life has to offer, Hanger has planted roots in the Twin Ports.

“Duluth is home to me,” he said. “Going back to Chicago doesn’t feel like home anymore. After all, I’ve grown up here. I’ve made my mistakes here. And, I’ve found myself here.”

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