Blog Downtown Greater Council

Toasty's Bent Paddle French Onion Soup

March 1, 2018

Yummy!! Watch Chef Tom Hagen make Toasty's Bent Paddle French Onion Soup. Featuring Duluth's own Bent Paddle Black Ale

Toasty's is located at 220 W. Superior St. in Downtown Duluth and is participating in Eat Downtown - Duluth Restaurant Week March 5-10

Make your lunch plans now


Calling Duluth Home

February 20, 2018

Calling Duluth Home

by Sara Cole, President and CEO of Duluth Family YMCA

I’m new here. I have come to understand that I should not say that too often or too loudly (or maybe at all), but I think it may be evident in the confused look that I often wear while trying to determine in which direction I should walk through the skywalk downtown or when I am verifying the correct way to pronounce “Cloquet.” I arrived here with my car full of boxes (and a dog and cat) just in time for the late-October snow storm, proud to join the amazing team of staff and volunteers at the Duluth Area Family YMCA.

These days, I drive down into Duluth each morning and feel lucky to see the stunning vista of Lake Superior unfurl before me. I find myself an eager Midwesterner, one who has already told more than one person that the air “just feels cleaner here.” And one who has come to think of 30 degrees as relatively warm. I already have a favorite dish at a local restaurant, a preferred local coffee shop, and a set of snow tires. I have even managed to learn which city streets give me the best chance of making it safely downtown on the snowiest of days. But I have only been here for 115 days; Duluth still has much more to teach me.

In the months before I moved here, I was lucky enough to speak with a number of generous Duluthians who spoke of their city with such love and with such exuberant passion that I could not help but fall under its spell even before I had ever been here in person. Their stories varied—some of them had lived here their entire lives, some had grown up here and moved away only to come back, and some had found themselves here, initially for a year or two, but ultimately felt as though they never wanted to leave. Regardless of the details of their individual journeys to Duluth, each person claimed Duluth as their own and never wanted to leave.

I cannot claim Duluth as my birthright. In fact, I have called a number of cities home. What I can claim unequivocally is my joy in learning the nuances of a new city, in discovering the character in its local lore, in reveling in its holiday traditions. I am an eager student, and love each new fact and piece of locale lore I gather. With each passing day, the topography of Duluth’s stories and its history come more fully into view for me. My infatuation with Duluth’s smallest details is a bit like the heady, early days of falling in love, when even the most complex nuance seems charming and you find yourself rhapsodizing about all that makes your beloved so unique.

I’ve been collecting all the recommendations so generously showered on me. I am going to do my best to check out every scenic overlook, hike every trail, and visit every park; I am going to watch the big ships come in, turn out for the annual Christmas parade, and cheer for UMD hockey. I’m going to go ice fishing and maybe even eat some lutefisk. I am going to work as hard as I can to understand how I can be of service to Duluth, and how the YMCA can continue being a trusted and valuable resource for all members our community. Most of all, I am going to keep reaching out, asking questions, and admitting that yes, I am new here. And I have a lot to learn. But what a gift to ask and be answered. What a gift to have come so far and find myself at home.

A City We All Love to Call Home

February 7, 2018

Do you know someone out there who is in search of a new city to call home? Many cities across the country are looking to attract professionals who will establish themselves, their families, and their skills right within their city limits.

If Duluth were a single person wanting to attract just the right person, Duluth’s personal ad might look something like this: ISO cool vibes, music lover, culturally interested—must love theater, ballet, symphony as much as you love a really great beer and local music. Must be active! Avid runner, hiker, biker? Yes, please. Enjoy dining out and taking long walks along the shore. Work hard, play harder. Are you out there?

Just like companies look for candidates that will fit well into their culture, people look for cities and cultures that fit well with them. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn't. But, I’ll tell you that I’m a little biased about this particular cultural fit. Duluth has run away with headlines, TV spots, and magazine feature stories in the last several years when people are talking about the next “it” place.

But, seriously, for a minute: cities thrive when there’s a good match made between people living there and what’s available to them. Like any good relationship, there has to be enough in common to make you want to stay and work hard at it.

Duluth works hard at its part in the relationship. Cities with culture and creativity contribute to higher economic growth, especially for cities with low-income people. The size of a city doesn’t determine its performance, either. Duluth’s number of artists of all kinds is outsized per capita than many larger cities.

Access to the arts and diverse culture define the livability of our cities. Smart cities take advantage of promoting their culture to attract the right partners, so to speak—retaining and nurturing creative workforces and dynamic personalities that ultimately contribute to the life of their city.

Our downtown is thriving. That’s been said so many times by so many and it’s well deserved. But, is it a match for you? Our music, restaurants, entrepreneurs, coffee, trails, lake, symphony, theater, and performing arts culture are accessible and welcome. These are treasured benefits for people who work hard and play harder. There are few places with a bustling downtown business corridor where, in just moments, you can walk onto a scene like the Lakewalk, where all the stress melts away with a lake breeze.

Not only does the city have so much to offer culturally and naturally, but there’s a supportive business community here where people from all business backgrounds can be valuable resources for those just starting out and for those looking for advice on expanding or even for those expanding their business here from other locations. In many ways, Duluth is that city with real small-town appeal and relationships. Organizations like the Greater Downtown Council are valuable resources for everyone in our business district here. Make sure you have a great support system when you start a relationship with your new city.

All of this makes a match if I ever saw one. It’s why you should want to work here, play here, thrive here. Duluth is that city you’ve been dreaming about.

If you’re ISO amazing opportunities and a relationship with room to grow long into the future, hey, I’ve got just the right place for you.

Shelley Jones, of Jones Group of Duluth, is a commercial real estate broker based in Duluth and is a board member of the Greater Downtown Council.

Duluth Coffee Co. ready to warm you up!

January 12, 2018

Downtown Duluth has evolved drastically over the past few years. We're proud to be a part of the past, present and future of the area. Duluth Coffee Company made a deliberate decision to keep production in Downtown Duluth to cultivate vitality within the area. The new 70 kilo roaster emphasizes and promotes the craft of Duluth. We hope to be able to provide education and transparency to the sourcing and production of coffee. We've made wonderful connections downtown, and we're excited to foster these relationships in the future. We thank GDC for all of the promotion of the energy that the businesses provide in the area. - Sam Levar: Sales Manager

Duluth Coffee is happy to sponsor Duluth’s Largest Coffee Break on Thursday, Feb. 1st. Join us at Lake Place Park at 10am for a FREE cup of coffee from Duluth Coffee Company and FREE doughnut holes from the Greenery. This event is a fundraiser for the restoration of the Lakewalk Trail, so a $5 donation is suggested.

Our Intern Visits Solve Entertainment

August 14, 2017

Our summer intern, Kaylie Brooks (UMD), visits Solve Entertainment in Downtown Duluth with her friends and tells us all about it...

"One Sunday evening, I had the opportunity to experience all of the magic of Solve Entertainment. A couple of my friends and I had signed up to participate in one of their escape rooms to see what it was all about. We prepared ourselves and our minds for the mystery we were about to uncover. The Vanishing Act was the name of the escape room and we had 60 minutes to discover all of the secrets hidden inside and to find the masked magician before his sold-out encore performance. Lance, our guide, set the stage and put us into character to solve the mystery. He led us into a small, dim-lit room and closed us in. We slowly found clues to help us get one step closer to finding the masked magician. There were a couple of times we thought we came to a dead end, but with the help of our magic wand, we were able to uncover some more hints. As a team, we each used our strengths and took advantage of every clue and tool we were given. With 3 seconds left to spare, we had finally found the masked magician and solved the mystery!

We all had a blast playing the game and solving the mystery! It was both thrilling and entertaining trying to find all of the clues in just under 60 minutes. The staff did a great job setting up the room and connecting all of the clues. Being a first-time escape room participant, I had no idea what to expect and it blew me away with how fun it was. I would definitely recommend heading over to Solve Entertainment to try out their escape rooms for yourself!"

Rolling Through Duluth

August 9, 2017

Duluth has always been a city full of beauty and wonder, with many things to do, many places to go, and many things to see. The NorthShore Inline Marathon is on its 22nd annual event coming up on September 16th, 2017. The NorthShore Inline Marathon is the largest inline marathon in the country and brings in around 2000 people every year to the city, allowing those people to experience our one of a kind city and to become part of the community.

The NorthShore Inline Marathon course offers breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the North Shore from Scenic Hwy 61, all the way down to Canal Park. I can vouch from personal experience that there is no better feeling than the putting on a pair of inline skates or rollerblades and cruising along the boardwalk and around Canal Park.

There are many events that the NorthShore Inline Marathon offers for all age groups. Events include:

  • Kids Sprints
  • Inline Half and Combined Marathon (39.3 miles)
  • Wheels Off Half Marathon Run
  • Tunnel 10k Run
  • Full Inline Marathon (Elite National Championship & Amateur)
  • Rollerski Marathon

The energy and the environment that this event brings to Duluth is one that the NorthShore Inline Marathon takes pride in. It creates an emotional and physiological feeling of unexplained joy and excitement that is difficult to replicate. It is an event that brings us together as both a community and a city.

Its not too late to sign up and join one of the many events that the NorthShore Inline Marathon has to offer, or sign up as a volunteer and be a part of the action! Come join us and celebrate this magnificent event on September 16th, 2017 right here in Duluth, MN. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us, and visit our website at


Joe Furlong is Public Relations Director of the 22nd Annual NorthShore Inline Marathon. NorthShore Inline Marathon, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization in Duluth with a mission foster national and international amateur inline skating competition and promote health and fitness through the organization, promotion, development and conduct of recreational inline skating marathon.

In the Middle of It All

April 17, 2017

I call all of downtown my office. It's not just a clever slogan. As part of my commercial properties brokerage business, I have the privilege of holding listings in Wells Fargo Center, the News Tribune building along with many others within the downtown area.

If you take the time to walk around downtown, you can't help but feel a new vital energy that's been building steadily over the last several years. New restaurants and spots for local bands are opening. On the east end of Superior Street, business owners and artists have forged partnerships and created our new, branded Historic Arts & Theater District, the Hart District. Our new Transportation Center shows our commitment to mass transit and managing city growth in ways that look to the future. On the west end of Superior Street, the new Maurices building has claimed its place on the Duluth skyline, joining buildings of industry that have created the city's profile for more than a century.

Our downtown corridor is also a place of constant renewal.  Development envisioned by the city and by others made it possible, for example, for Blacklist Artisan Ales to open up their taproom in the former Last Place on Earth space—transforming the character and vibe of the entire block.  These changes keep development dynamic and forward-thinking.

What's happening is more than just a feeling. The numbers are real and exciting, too. In the last several years, the city's population has grown, especially in the demographic representing 25-34 year olds. That demographic includes families, entrepreneurs, and skilled professionals looking for work. I'm encouraged by the growth--not just because it benefits my role as a networker and facilitator in helping entrepreneurs and businesses find the ideal spaces in our commercial real estate market. I'm also encouraged because I'm a mom to college and teenaged kids and my husband and I have made Duluth our home for some time now, taking full advantage of everything the city has to offer our family.

Our city is experiencing real commercial growth, with people taking more chances on starting their own small businesses. Established businesses are growing smartly, taking advantage of the skilled workforce that also continues to flourish. And families are putting down roots. Those families and professionals are spending money downtown. They're invested in revitalization. They're lovers of art and nightlife.

It’s a great time to be a commercial broker with downtown listings.  The views are unparalleled in the city.  The business community is so supportive when it comes to new tenants.  The draw of great food, great entertainment, and the arts brings people downtown and keeps them here day or night.   When it comes down to considering the whole picture for placing a business, all of these things come into play.

As I drive around this city I call my office, I'm more encouraged than ever before about city growth, with our downtown being the epicenter and vital nexus of that growth. I'm excited to put entrepreneurs in the middle of it all. I feel a new energy as I take my place with others on the Greater Downtown Council board. And, ultimately, I know that all of these pieces fit together in my family life as Duluth takes its place as a true destination for life. And for business! Let's get moving!

-Shelley Jones is the founder and broker of Jones Group of Duluth and a GDC Board Member

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