Blog Downtown Greater Council

Hello Christmas City!

November 14, 2016

Fifty-four years ago this month a package arrived at the downtown Superior Street studios of Duluth’s NBC television station containing a gift for Duluthians of 1962.  The gift was an audio tape with the original recording of the “Christmas City Song” by NBC mega-star Merv Griffin backed by the NBC Orchestra.  The song, of course, became the theme of the annual Christmas City of the North Parade and a spark of community pride for every new generation.  But, hidden on that audio tape was another gift for the people of Duluth; a gift that has just been brought to light this year thanks to an accidental discovery and a bit of good luck.

KBJR staffers working in the 1960s recall that Griffin recorded the “Christmas City of the North” song from sheet music he happened to see at the station while visiting Duluth.  The song and its companion “Song of the Christmas City” were written by Don Peterson of Virginia and given to the station to help celebrate the new Christmas City of the North Parade which the station had organized a few years earlier.

Griffin had come to Duluth as the featured speaker at the annual Hall of Fame Dinner and later said the people of Duluth greeted him so warmly that he wanted to give the community a gift.  Visiting his friend, KBJR General Manager Bob Rich, afforded Griffin the opportunity when he took a copy of the sheet music back to New York and recorded the track with the help of NBC’s in-house orchestra.

Now fast-forward to 2016 when, during an extensive remodeling project of the KBJR studios in Canal Park, current staffers ‘discovered’ a locked fire box hidden deep in a filing cabinet.  Inside was a small box labeled "Gotham Recording Corporation-New York City" containing the original reel-to-reel audio tape sent by Merv Griffin in 1962.  The tape was then sent to an outside recording studio which specializes in preservation of legacy audio recordings. 

As expected, preservationists found the two songs performed by Merv Griffin as well as three private messages recorded by Griffin for the City of Duluth.  It’s unclear if these messages were ever released to the public, but they clearly confirm Griffin’s warm feelings for Duluthians.

“Hi this is Merv Griffin wishing all of you in the Christmas City of Duluth the happiest of Holidays.  Best to everybody at WDSM and WDSM TV.”

Radio was the dominant media at that time and WDSM radio and WDSM TV were owned by the same company.  WDSM TV went on to become the KBJR TV that exists today.  To hear more from Merv Griffin you’ll have to watch KBJR’s 58th broadcast of the Christmas City of the North Parade on Friday, November 18th starting at 6:25PM!

Dave Jensch of KBJR 6 is Vice Chair of the Greater Downtown Council's Board of Directors

Summer is heating up downtown!

July 12, 2016

The Greater Downtown Council is hosting a plethora of events in the community this summer. Our biggest events are Movies in the Park, Sidewalk Days, and the Farmer’s Market!

Movies in the Park presented by National Bank of Commerce will begin this Friday, July 8th.These featured films under the stars in the beautiful Leif Erikson Park will begin at sunset every Friday evening throughout the summer. The lineup for our “Sail Away Summer” includes:

July 8 – Shark Tale starting at 9:10 pm

July 15 - Muppet Treasure Island  presented by Adventure Zone at  starting at 9:00 pm

July 22 - Battleship presented by CSL Plasma starting at 8:50 pm

July 29 - Swiss Family Robinson presented by Lake Superior College  starting at 8:40 pm

August 5 - The Princess Bride presented by Tall Ships Duluth  starting at 8:30 pm

August 12 - Hook  starting at 8:20 pm

August 19 - Castaway  starting at 8:10 pm

August 26 - Pirates of the Caribbean:The Curse of the Black Pearl  starting at 8:00 pm

Aside from free movies, there will be food vendors in the park. Valentini’s and the National Bank of Commerce are also providing the chance to win VIP seating and a picnic basket filled with goodies for one lucky family each week. All you have to do is register at the National Bank of Commerce table. Finally, there will be a free concert before the movie on August 26th, featuring the Northshore Philharmonic Orchestra.


While Movies in the Park are going all summer, Sidewalk Days is one action packed week. It runs from Wednesday, July 13th, through Saturday, July 15th.

Wednesday, there will be vendors and a large bungee jump from 9 am until 5 pm, Bob and Trish who will be performing and giving free juggling lessons from 11 am until 1 pm, a the Farmer’s Market Kickoff, the YMCA Sidewalk Shuffle, and the Verizon Classic Carshow featuring a live band on every street. The street will be lined with vendors from 5th Ave West to Lake Ave along Superior Street. The Farmer’s Market Kickoff will be from 11 am until 1 pm at the Lake Superior Plaza (the corner of Lake Ave and Superior Street). The Sidewalk Shuffle is a 5K sponsored by the YMCA. It begins at 12:10 pm at the Endion Station (next to the Canal Park Lodge). Next is the Verizon Classic Car Show. The Car Show will run from 5th Ave West to 3rd Ave East on Superior Street. It is from 5 pm until 8 pm. Bands include the Fractals, Lake City Smokin’ Section, the Legendary Hell Puppies, Wildwood, the Lester River Boys, and others to be determined.

On Thursday, vendors and the large bungee will continue from 9 am until 5 pm and Bob and Trish will be performing and giving free juggling lessons from 11 am until 1 pm. The Blue Cross Blue Shield will also be having its Duluth Retail Center Grand Opening. They invite you to tour their center, try a free yoga class and enter to win fabulous prizes. At 11 a.m. there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony, with sidewalk-yoga from 11:30 – 12:15. The first 50 people to join will get a free yoga mat and everyone who participates will get a free yoga towel to take home. Starting at noon they will be serving healthy summer fare and giving tours of the new center.

On Friday, vendors and the large bungee will continue from 9 am until 5 pm and Bob and Trish will be performing and giving free juggling lessons from 11 am until 1 pm. You are also invited to stop in at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Retail Center for free fitness and wellness classes, community events, and to learn more about health insurance plans and options. There will also be a street dance. The street dance will be on First Street, hosted by Ace’s On First. It begins at 8 pm and will feature the Pot Bellied Stallions. It will be between 1st Ave West and 2nd Ave West.

Bonus Day!  Saturday, the fun continues with the Superior Street Dance, hosted by Dubh Linn Brew Pub. It begins at 8 pm and will feature Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys. It will be between 1st Ave West and 2nd Ave West.


While Sidewalk Days is one week of summer, you can still shop downtown and purchase fresh goodies from local businesses, growers, and artists all summer long. Every Tuesday from from July 19th through September 27th between 11 am and 1 pm you will find the Downtown Farmer’s Market at the Lake Superior Plaza (at the Corner of Lake Ave & Superior St). Each week, there will also be live music and at least one downtown restaurant will be on hand so customers can grab lunch while shopping local. All of this is brought to you in part by St. Luke's Medical Arts Clinic.

Featured Restaurants

July 19th – Zeitgeist Arts Cafe

July 26th – Restaurant 301

August 2th – Fitger’s Brewhouse

August 9th – The Rambler

August 16st – TBD

August 23th – TBD

August 30th – Tavern on the Hill

September 6th – Restaurant 301

September 13th – Canal Park Brewery

September 20th – TBD

September 27th – TBD



Local view: Duluth skywalkers help keep downtown on its toes

June 29, 2016

So, what’s your fashion preference? Scintillating stiletto? Smart pumps? Reliable loafer? How about something a little different? Say, a pair of neon-tinted athletic shoes. Fashion no-no but fitness yes-yes? You can have both.

Especially if you’re a working woman downtown in Duluth.

For several years, I worked up the hill at the mall as the director of business development and marketing. These days, I am director of marketing and communications for the Head of the Lakes United Way. It feels good to be downtown again. I get to spread the good news about the United Way.

Read any number of articles about America’s downtowns and you’ll find every kind of study about the decline of urban centers over the last 50 years. But we are making it right again. The renaissance of America’s downtowns stretches all the way inland from both coasts to the shores of Lake Superior. More specifically, Superior Street. If you’re a working woman like me, you know it takes a skywalker to make a downtown thrive.

There’s a vibrant and active regiment of glorious skywalkers making the march daily in Duluth — before work, on their lunch breaks, and probably more than a few during their work day, thinking about how to close their next deal.

Revitalizing downtowns can be a challenge. They are often gritty, cranky and struggling places, but always exciting and compelling. A skywalker on patrol, neon-tinted athletic shoes and either a smart business suit or patterned dress as her uniform, has a bird’s-eye view of what makes working and living downtown culturally and professionally fulfilling. After all, there’s 3.5 miles of skywalks to patrol.

Our downtown is a hotbed of business activity, creativity, activism and economic diversity. In the time it takes for you to set out on your shift, pedometer at the ready, you can have an entire day’s worth of things at your footsteps. Leave your office and enter the urban jungle, snaking through corridors, striding with confidence toward buying that perfect engagement ring or that tie for your partner. Dip in for a second at street level to try on a thing or 10 for when the sun goes down and downtown pulses with music, theater and the smells of pizza, Indian food and steaks. But, I digress.

If a downtown is said to demonstrate to the world the character of the people in a given city, the Duluth skywalker brigade shines bright: young, urban, aware, determined, excited and smart. Those sensible and smart pumps might be under your desk back at the office, but for now your walking gear, your skywalker uniform, is your downtown identity for the next half-hour of your life.

But wait. What is that? Time to stop for a smoothie? Why not? Every skywalker on patrol knows where to scope out the next hot thing. There are hot spots and pulse points every time you look down at your pedometer, all just waiting to be discovered.


Machelle Kendrick of Duluth is a member of the Greater Downtown Council marketing committee and wrote this on behalf of the committee.

Downtown Duluth is my choice for work and play

June 6, 2016

Downtown is a choice. Whether it is to work, eat, shop, see a movie, do your banking, see your dentist or open a business, downtown is a choice we can make every day.

Four years ago, Kristi Stokes of the Greater Downtown Council approached Dan and me, asking, “What would it take for you to open another store, right in downtown Duluth?” It got us thinking. My husband and business partner, Dan Edmunds, and I started looking downtown. We looked at a beautiful downtown storefront that was yet another office space and said, “Let’s gut it.” We put a stake on the corner of Third Avenue East and Superior Street, turned it into Art in the Alley, and called it home.

Why take that level of risk? Why bother to take the time and energy to turn office space into retail space in downtown Duluth? What were we thinking? There was not much retail downtown and the Last Place on Earth was making news much too often.

We were thinking it was the right thing to do — on many levels.

We believed.

We believed in downtown and all that it stands for in our community.

Growing up on the Iron Range in the ’80s, I remember what real downtowns were made of. The downtown was the hub of the community. It was where you went to get your shoes, jewelry, bakery goods and winter coats. It had the post office and dentist’s office. It was the choice of not one, but two beautiful movie theaters. It was where we “bombed the drag” on weekends with so many teens from neighboring cities. It was the diversity of the local shops and restaurants owned by neighbors, family and friends. Downtown was the heart and soul of the community.

Dan and I wanted to strengthen this feeling in downtown Duluth. And four years ago, downtown Duluth needed us. It needed Art in the Alley. It needed our passion, vision and dedication. It needed a vibrant storefront and unique, artsy retail shop. It needed someone to remember what downtowns used to be, someone who had the determination to help dust off those memories and bring them back to life.

Today, the corner of Third Avenue East and Superior Street is a very different place; it’s a very vibrant place, bustling with activity day and night. Duluth Trading Company is our neighbor across the avenue, and the Lark O’ the Lake Café is across the street. The old Carlson bookstore is undergoing a major renovation, as will the NorShor Theatre. The Last Place on Earth is just a faded memory.

Last year a group of downtown business owners, along with the Greater Downtown Council, worked to develop a new brand for the area east of Lake Avenue, resulting in the Hart District. Thanks to the support from the city of Duluth, the Hart District’s beautiful logo brands the public parking ramp on Superior Street across from ShelDon Print and Design. We have a special group of like-minded downtown entrepreneurs working together to keep the momentum going.

So much has changed over the last four years. Today I am writing to you as chairwoman of the Greater Downtown Council’s board of directors. I am honored to be part of the group that advocates for the downtown businesses and supports development. I am also involved with the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, VisitDuluth, the Canal Park Business Association and Destination Duluth. There are so many hardworking, passionate and talented individuals working on behalf of our downtown.

But most needed are individuals like you, the consumers who choose downtown. Downtown is fun and exciting, just as we remember. It is a different place than it was just four years ago when Art in the Alley first opened. If you haven’t been downtown recently, we invite you to revisit your downtown and create some memories of your own.

Tami LaPole Edmunds is the owner of Art in the Alley in downtown Duluth and is chairwoman of the Greater Downtown Council board of directors.

Click here for DNT article

Get Downtown Week Coming Soon!

May 25, 2016

Thanks to the popularity of “Eat Downtown Restaurant Week,” the GDC is spinning off a new event with our downtown member businesses. 

Mark your calendar now for “Get Downtown Week,” June 6th-11th.   Approximately 30 businesses will be offering a “Buy one, get one FREE” promotion on select items.  It’s a great week to visit your favorite businesses in Downtown Duluth and get in on the special deals too.


Craig Samborski Talks Draken Harald HÃ¥rfagre

May 2, 2016

Interviewed by Darlene Marshall

Downtown Live Rocked!

April 27, 2016

Live from downtown, it's Wednesday night!  Or, rather, it was.  Last Wednesday, business people from around Duluth trickled into the Zeitgeist Arts for a laid-back evening at Downtown Live courtesy of the Greater Downtown Council.

Downtown Live events are a unique, educational, and oftentimes humorous community experience.  Each event is emceed by Duluthian Steve Greenfield of Greenfield Communications, who interviews local members of the business and arts communities in the style of a late-night talk show panel.

Greenfield set a lively, casual tone for the night.  So casual, in fact, that even the audience was welcome to get some questions in.  Our guests were Bob Monahan, owner of the Red Herring and Walt “Dizzo” Raschick, the director of Homegrown Music Festival.

Since both Monahan and Raschick have done great things for local music, music talk dominated much of the evening.

Raschick discussed his time as the director of Homegrown Music Festival, and his upcoming resignation.  When asked why he was stepping down, Raschick cited his five years as director and explained that Homegrown is a community effort, and as such, needs fresh perspectives and ideas to continue its growth.

Monahan, who founded one of Duluth’s most prolific labels, Chaperone Records, also spoke about his work in the music community.  His experience with the area’s musicians allowed for detailed insight into what it takes to produce a local album, including the vinyl-pressing process, creating CDs, and creating cover art for the finished product.

Although our guests, by and large, are contributors to the music scene, their visions for the city are much broader.

Monahan would like to continue to work towards growing the reach of the tourism industry from Canal Park to the HART District in downtown (and beyond.)  Continuing from there, Raschick noted that the Homegrown Music Festival makes an effort to spread tourism throughout Duluth by exposing tourists to venues across the city.

Though much of the evening was evocative of an episode of The Late Show, the entire event resonated as a casual conversation among friends who shared a common passion:  Duluth.

“I thought I would only be here for school,” Raschick reflected on his first years in the city, “but I just couldn’t find a reason to leave.”

If you love Duluth, you may find yourself right at home at our next Downtown Live event on October 19th featuring Citon Computer Corp’s founders & owners Steven Dastoor and Sean Dean.  All are invited and the event is free!

Straight from Downtown Duluth,

Harley Roach

Springtime in Downtown Duluth

April 14, 2016

Doesn’t spring make you feel optimistic!?  According to the local forecast it looks like Downtown Duluth will be in full-on spring mode.  There’s certainly something magical about this season.  It puts a spring in your step, a smile on your face and you start seeing your surroundings in a different light.

Here are a few of our favorite things about spring…

1. Warmer Weather - Even if you are a winter enthusiast, I think most of us must look forward to the end of winter and the start of warmer weather.  What’s not to love about it?  Feeling the sun on your face, a stroll on the lakewalk (without gloves), and just feeling more positive.

2. Lighter Clothes - Isn’t it great when you can put away your winter clothes and go out without having to pile on the layers? And with a little spring cleaning, we make room for a few new things from your favorite local retailer. 

3. Longer Days - Whether you are an early riser or a night owl, you get to see more sunlight.  And who doesn’t love the opportunity for dinner and a sunset?  It’s like coming out of hibernation!

4. Outdoors - We are lucky enough to have reasons to get outdoors all year long but with nicer weather and longer days there are even more opportunities to enjoy one of Duluth’s greatest assets.

5. Events - Spring is when your calendar starts filling up with all the fun things that happen in our community.  Aren’t you just counting the days until you can grab lunch and sit outside? From the Downtown Farmers’ Market to concerts in Bayfront Festival Park… there are so many reasons to get out (and Get Downtown.)



I'll see you downtown,

Kristin Johnson