Robbery foiled at Godfather’s Pizza, 2001

March 17, 2001

Godfather’s Pizza employees (left to right) Michelle McDonell, Zeb Hodel, David Tyson, Joe McDonell and Pete Boyechko foiled a robbery attempt Saturday night. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)

PIZZERIA WORKERS FOIL ROBBER

By Bob Linneman, News-Tribune

After fighting off an attempted robbery last weekend, workers at the Duluth Godfather’s Pizza on London Road have discovered a newfound closeness.

Call it bonding by fear.

"We’re like a family now, and we take care of each other," said David Tyson, 24, who stood bravely between the pizza parlor’s cash register and a man believed to be armed last Saturday night.

According to a criminal complaint filed in St. Louis County District Court this week, five people — three men and two women — entered Godfather’s and ordered food at about 5 p.m.

Store manager Pete Boyechko said the group appeared intoxicated. He told them no food would be prepared unless they produced money to pay for it. When no one offered any cash, the group left the building, at 1623 London Road. Minutes later, however, they returned and attempted to write a check, but didn’t produce proper identification.

The group left the restaurant again, but only for a short time. Soon, one man, identified as Maurice Antonio Garcia, 30, of Crystal, Minn., returned and began arguing with Tyson, the restaurant supervisor.

"The guy was pounding on the register and punched the soda fountain. David stepped in front of him," said Michelle McDonell, 18, who works at the restaurant with her brother, Joe. "The guy was right in his face. When the guy got the register open, David pushed him back and closed it. The guy was swinging his arms the whole time."
Meanwhile, Boyechko called 911 from a back office.

"I heard these smacks and I thought someone was getting hit," he said.

The noise was actually the cash register being struck.

According to restaurant workers and the criminal complaint, Garcia went behind the counter and after the cash register. He was yelling and swearing at Tyson.

Garcia also allegedly put his hand in his trousers, leading restaurant workers to believe he was armed with either a gun or knife. It turned out he had no weapon.

Tension was high. There was no one else in the restaurant at the time.

"I thought one of us wasn’t going to go home that night," Boyechko said.

But Tyson, who has lived in Duluth for only a few months, stood his ground and pushed Garcia away, preventing a potential robbery.

During the altercation, another man in the group re-entered the store and tried to drag Garcia away. The two finally left, but were soon picked up by police, along with the three others in the group.

Police responded in force to the restaurant with at least nine squads.

"They were fortunate the police were in the immediate area and were able to respond quickly," said Sgt. Eric Rish of the Duluth Police Department.

The police presence was a huge relief to the five Godfather’s workers on duty that night.

"When I saw the police lights, my stress level went way down," a relieved Boyechko said.

Supervisor David Tyson, one of five employees at Godfather’s Pizza on London Road who collectively foiled a robbery attempt, got public kudos for his actions. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)

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Talking about the incident Thursday, restaurant workers say they are proud of the way they handled the situation — and proud of Tyson, in particular.

For his courage, Tyson was named the restaurant’s employee of the month; his name appears on a sign outside inviting customers inside to meet the man of the hour.

Rish, however, said the group was lucky. He doesn’t recommend that type of response to a potential robbery.

"Businesses should all have a plan in place in case of incidents like this," he said, adding that, in most cases, it’s best to let the robbers take the money and let police handle it from there.

"Don’t be a hero,"’ Rish said.

The workers were scared and acted on impulse, Boyechko said. They had never been in a situation like this before. In fact, Boyechko said, "it’s the last thing I would think would happen here."

But Tyson had been through a similar situation. He was a victim of a home-invasion robbery in Minneapolis last year and knows how to handle himself.

"I wasn’t scared," Tyson said. "I didn’t think he had a gun, either. I’ve been robbed before and I know how people act."

Garcia was the only one charged in the incident and is in St. Louis County Jail. He’s been charged with attempted aggravated robbery and criminal damage to property. He could face a 12-year prison sentence if convicted on both charges.

His bail has been set at $4,000.

Although they were frightened, the five Godfather’s workers on duty that night — Boyechko, Tyson, Michelle McDonell, Joe McDonell and Zeb Hodel — say the experience has brought them closer.

"We’re a lot closer; we’re trying to spend more time together outside of work," Boyechko said.

Tyson said he relied solely on instinct in his response to the threat of robbery.

"I knew my co-workers had not been in that kind of situation before," he said. "I did what I felt I needed to do."

It was a scary moment for the employees, all of them in their teens or early 20s.

"It was very hectic," Michelle McDonell said. "My little brother (Joe, 15) was up front and I wanted to make sure he was OK. Everybody ended up being OK."

The attempted robbery has been the talk of the restaurant all week. "I’m just glad everything turned out all right," Michelle McDonell said.

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Godfather’s Pizza on London Road closed just a few months later, in August 2001. The building is now occupied by China Cafe.

Share your memories of the London Road Godfather’s Pizza by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

Cousin Jack Pasty Inc., 1965

January 1965

Mrs. Hazel Toikka (left) folds vegetable-beef filling into pie dough while Mrs. Aletha Birno (right) holds a finished Cousin Jack Pasty in Duluth in January 1965. In the background are Mrs. Alvera Haltli and Mrs. Ella Isaacson. (News-Tribune file photo)

I can’t find much in the files to accompany this photo of the Cousin Jack Pasty Inc. assembly line in Duluth. The only clipping is an excerpt from a January 7, 1965, News-Tribune article headlined "150 Manufacturers Produce in Duluth":

Having his pie and eating it too is Gil Gustafson, whose Cousin Jack Pasty Inc. last year made 50,000 vegetable-beef pies for retailers in a wide area and hopes to double its production this year. A major food store chain is among the customers. Eleven persons are employed in the manufacturing process, which utilizes special machinery and, according to Gustafson, "a genuine Cornish recipe that is at least 200 years old." He expects to hire more people as his expansion plans develop. "They look very promising," he said.

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So, can anyone fill in some details about what happened to Cousin Jack Pasty Inc. in Duluth? Post a comment if you know more.

A Google search turns up several "Cousin Jack" pasty businesses, including Cousin Jack’s Pasty Company in Eugene, Oregon, but none appear to have any connection to the Duluth operation of the 1960s.

And, it being the West Coast, the Eugene outfit offers variations on the traditional beef-and-rutabaga pasty that would be sacrilege to any true Northland pasty fan: Pesto-lamb, cheeseburger and more. As far as I’m concerned, those variations may be tasty… but they’re no pasty!

- Andrew Krueger

NorShor Theatre history

With Monday’s announcement that the city of Duluth is planning (again) to buy the NorShor Theatre, let’s take a look back at the long history of the downtown landmark. Here are a variety of photos and stories from the News Tribune Attic:

Duluth’s NorShor Theatre, shortly after opening in 1941. (News-Tribune file photo)

July 10, 1941

NORSHOR LEADS NATION IN THEATER ARCHITECTURE

The following is a column written by NorShor remodeling architect Jack Liebenberg, then the Upper Midwest’s most celebrated picture palace designer, for the July 10, 1941, Duluth Herald and News Tribune. It was timed to appear on the day of the grand opening of the theater. (The column was reprinted in the DNT in December 2003):

In striking contrast to the existing "modern" vogue, the NorShor Theatre is charting a venturesome course in architectural form and design. It is both refreshing and inspiring. It represents a departure from the hide-bound, sterile crudities of the past decade, which the monotonous functional designers so painfully thrust upon us.
In plan form, the theater employs many interesting silhouettes or patterns. The lobby, for example, is hexagonal; the foyer is an elongated oval which blends rather effortlessly into a rectangle with softened and rounded corners in the entresole. The huge high-ceilinged Arrowhead lounge, which forms a bridge to the terraced milk bar, is lozenge-shaped in plan.

The easy flow of the plan is particularly emphasized in the auditorium, which at no point has walls which are either parallel or straight in line. For acoustical reasons, the floor, the walls and the ceiling conform to particular shapes and forms that are intriguing to the imagination. And yet, with it all, there is a sense of vast spaciousness, of repose and of comfort.

Low, easy, swinging stairs and ramps carry one from level to level without a feeling of effort or climb. Although the theater has a spacious mezzanine, at no point in the auditorium, whether it be on the orchestra floor or on the mezzanine, is one conscious of another floor level existent in the theater. This is accounted for by the unusual parabolic shape of the floor, the inverse curve of the ceiling, the wide continental seat spacing and the aisle arrangements.

Innovations

Many innovations and unusual conveniences for the comfort of the patrons have been included in the structure. In addition to the large lounges which are reached by the two great stairways on a secondary level, a promenade in the form of the Norshor Milk Bar has been developed on a terraced elevation above the Arrowhead lounge. The Milk Bar is the first of such compact yet commodious innovations to be developed in a theater. It will probably be the fore-runner of many such installations throughout the country.

Appropriate and interesting are the Little Galleries located on the main floor just off the floating stairway. In these galleries will be included many traveling exhibits and works of art.

Here we have and rightly so, the theater, one of the fine arts, developing and encouraging another fine art by providing for the functional and the beautiful. Here objects of art value can be appreciated by everyone, instead of being confined to the appreciation of the favored few. One of the first exhibits will include the work of well known Minneapolis and other nationally known artists. The work of a number of instructors of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will be given prominent location in the exhibit.

The auditorium of the NorShor Theatre shortly after it opened in 1941. (News-Tribune file photo)

Art motifs

In the decorative scheme of the theater works of art have been combined as the central motif of architectural and structural treatment. Conspicuous among these is the sculptural bas-relief on the main stair to the Arrowhead lounge. Here we find the work of a prominent Minneapolis portrait painter and instructor at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts, Gustav Krollman. With a firm and yet easy moving theme, he depicts in interesting allegorical form, the City of Duluth in its relation to the entire Range country. This rendition is powerful and awe-inspiring in its conception.

In the auditorium, two large sculptured medallions are the central motif of the decorative scheme. Here again a new material, consisting of aerated gypsum combined with exploded mica was used.

In a somewhat lighter vein, Mr. Krollman, bordering on caricature, forces you to smile whether you will or not when you view his rural mural over the milk bar.

Another recognition of a newly developed fine art, namely photography, has been incorporated in the space which surrounds the floating stairway. Here we find the architects utilizing as wall decoration an immense photo mural depicting Split Rock Lighthouse. The original photograph was obtained from the state conservation department. This excellent photo was reproduced by John Kellet, St. Paul, who is an artist in his field.

Details

The lighting has been planned with great care and study in that each room utilizes the various light units for a particular purpose.

The carpeting, draping, furniture and stage settings were all especially created and designed by the architects for the NorShor project.

From the structural and mechanical data available about the structure, it will be interesting to note that the architects have included several independent ventilating and air conditioning systems. Each system serves a particular part of the theater and as gauged in the particular comfort required in that part.

As relates to vision, sound, atics, projects, all of the latest devices and methods have been employed in the NorShor theater development to furnish the best in entertainment and pleasure for the patron. The atical treatment has been given intense pioneer study in the auditorium. Methods, materials, model and other data were here employed for the first time in any theater. As to the results obtained, little need be amplified here. Suffice it to say that the illusion is almost perfect in every portion of the auditorium.

Tower

With reference to the structure, over 300 tons of structural steel were used to form the skeleton of the building. The tower, which graces the front of the building, is over 125 feet high above the sidewalk. It is completely sheathed in porcelain and is one of the first steel structures using this material in the country. It was designed to stand a normal wind pressure of more than 100 miles per hour. The foundations supporting the tower were carried down to bedrock.

The entire building project of the Norshor theater has been a pleasant and unique work from its conception. The project carries a certain business and sophistication with it, and yet, it is not garish. The modernized Baroque, employed with extreme restraint, has evolved into a composition of architectural forms which are based on the best of the "old," yet, built in the finest of the "new."

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NorShor Theatre, April 3, 1997 (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)

March 23, 2001

NESS, STEWART WANT NORSHOR TO STAY HIP

By Baird Helgeson, Duluth News-Tribune

Duluth’s youngest city councilors want the Temple Opera House and NorShor Theatre to remain hot spots for young people if the city buys the landmarks.

Councilors Donny Ness and Russ Stewart want a nonprofit group composed largely of current tenants to manage the facilities if the city buys the buildings.

"The NorShor provides excellent cultural and arts opportunities for young people in a city this size," Stewart, 36, said Thursday at a news conference in the theater. "There is no way we will sit back and let that be destroyed."

They also want the Duluth Economic Development Authority, which would own the buildings, to honor the leases of current tenants and ensure the buildings remain a cultural and arts hub.

The NorShor features alternative movies, concerts and open-mic poetry readings.

"As the mayor pointed out, he wants this to be a hip theater district," said Ness, 27.

Mayor Gary Doty announced last week he wants the city to buy the NorShor and Temple Opera House to preserve the landmarks.

Doty said he wants to purchase the buildings and the Bridgeman-Russell building with money left over from a downtown tax-increment financing district.

The money would pay off bonds if the city doesn’t use it for redevelopment by March 31, under a new state law.
DEDA and the City Council must approve the $1.48 million sale before the deal is final.

DEDA members will review the sale today and the council is expected to act on it Monday.

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NorShor Theatre in downtown Duluth, March 14, 2001. (Jessica Shold / News-Tribune)

March 24, 2001

DEDA WON’T BUY NORSHOR; PURCHASE OF BRIDGEMAN-RUSSELL BUILDING GETS THE GO-AHEAD

News-Tribune

The Duluth Economic Development Authority said no to the NorShor Theatre and yes to the Bridgeman-Russell building Friday night.

DEDA had delayed acting on two proposals to purchase the historic downtown buildings at its meeting Tuesday, asking city staff for more information on the long-term plans for the properties and what it would cost in the short run to bring the buildings up to code.

After a three-day recess, DEDA members remained unconvinced about the wisdom of the most expensive transaction – spending $1.155 million to acquire the Temple Opera building, the NorShor Theatre and the NorShor Annex from Eric and Debbie Ringsred. A loan worth $31,196.74 also would have been forgiven as part of the deal.

However, DEDA did approve the less expensive purchase of the Bridgeman-Russell building for $330,000. The deal still needs to win the approval of the Duluth City Council before it can proceed. Councilors will take up the matter Monday.

Mike Conlan, director of Duluth’s planning and development department, provided DEDA members with information about income and operating costs at the Temple Opera building and memos from the fire marshal regarding a sprinkler system recently installed in the NorShor complex. But he said he had not yet managed to obtain a building inspector’s report on the property.

It was a situation that made DEDA member Dale Lewis uncomfortable. "To not have that report here is really having a big blank check that we’re being asked to sign," she said.

Conlan said it appeared the buildings would not require substantial improvements to comply with city codes, but other DEDA members were equally uneasy about acting with the information they had in hand.

DEDA president and City Council member Ken Hogg said, "When I look at the idea of putting together a plan involving public money to restore that whole area and to preserve and enhance the potentialities of that area, it’s very exciting.
"My problem is that the way this has been presented so far. It’s a heart-throb idea, but there’s nothing there to see it works economically – that it makes sense."

Lewis said she needed a clearer plan and posed a tough rhetorical question: "So you’re asking us to spend over $1 million on this property, and then we can decide what to do with it, or whether to do anything with it?"

Conlan defended the plan to intervene to help restore and redevelop what he considers some strategically important historic buildings. "We’ve determined that our community needs to make a strong statement about the value of historic preservation downtown."

Patty Edwards, a DEDA member and City Council member, expressed concerns that city ownership of the NorShor could change its character. "The people running it now know what they’re doing," she said. "I hate to say it, but we’re not really hip here."

DEDA members voted 7-0 not to purchase the NorShor complex, including the Temple Opera building.

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Rick Boo sits in the theater of the soon-to-reopen Norshor on Jan. 19, 1998. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

March 14, 1998

NORSHOR REVIVAL: ‘A UNIQUE FILM EXPERIENCE’

News-Tribune

She was there on July 11, 1941, at age 11 when its debut film, "Caught in the Draft," a comedy starring Bob Hope, first flickered onto the screen.

She was there in 1948 at age 18, out on a first date with her future husband. They saw the comedy "Sitting Pretty," starring Clifton Webb and Maureen O’Hara.

Now, 50 years later, Barbara Main is 68 and once again spending a lot of time in the company of her old friend — the Norshor Theatre.

It’s been years since the historic theater has shown movies on a regular basis. And its latest incarnation as an alternative filmhouse sent waves of nostalgia and excitement through Barbara when she saw the theater spark back to life on Jan. 23. That night, "Eve’s Bayou" appeared on the marquee and people streamed in the doors of the grande dame of Old Downtown.

"To walk out of my building and see that marquee lit up is just wonderful," said Barbara, who lives next door to the Norshor in Greysolon Plaza. "It brings life to this dead, dark end of the street."

Barbara, who watched "The Apostle" twice during its four-week run, plus a Wednesday matinee screening of "The Haunting," is one of a growing number of loyal customers at the refurbished Norshor, 211 E. Superior St.

On Tuesday night, she was shooting the breeze with her son John and his wife at the bar outside the balcony theater — a feature that allows moviegoers to relax and chat before or after a film. They can even bring their drinks into the theater with them, as long as it’s poured into a plastic cup first.

"I don’t like going to a movie in a Quonset hut. I get claustrophobic in those things," Barbara said. "This is my idea of what a theater should be. There’s the bar here, a lounge."

She noted that Rick Boo, who runs the theater as president of Crossroads Flux, the group that spearheaded the latest revival, also rents out the house to community and business groups and offers children’s birthday parties during Sunday’s family matinees.

"But the biggest thing is this is the keystone to reviving downtown," Barbara said. "We’re talking about quality of life here."

A couple enters the Norshor Theater on March 7, 1998, for a matinee showing of "The Apostle." (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)

‘A real boon’

She said she is afraid to walk from the Holiday Center to Second Avenue East after dark. Many seniors, who live in great numbers in the vicinity of Old Downtown, feel the same way, Barbara said.

"You don’t get mugged on a busy street with lots of lights and lots of people," she said.

That’s where the Norshor Theatre comes in. With its glowing marquee, and the family-oriented clientele it attracts, the theater is already bringing more people to the area, Barbara said.

"I think it’s going to be a real boon, not only for tourists, but for people who live downtown," she said.

John couldn’t agree more.

"It’ll be a spark that will ignite this whole end of downtown, if people would support it," he said.

John gazed around the soft-lighted bar and mezzanine lounge, which features live music on weekends. He pointed to the far wall, which frames one of the theater’s two circular staircases with a giant relief sculpture of Northland miners. The other staircase is wrapped by a 16- by-26-foot photograph of Split Rock Lighthouse, proclaimed in a July 1941 News-Tribune article as the "world’s largest photograph enlargement." Norshor advertisements in the summer of 1941 trumpeted the moviehouse as "the Northwest’s Finest Luxury Theater."

"The thing I really like about this place is it totally lacks the sterile atmosphere you get at any other theater in Duluth," John said. "It’s a unique film experience, it really is."

He added that he would love to look up at the marquee and see Clark Gable’s name in lights. That would complete the Norshor’s throwback feel to another movie era, to Hollywood’s halcyon days, according to the film buff.

John says he feels cheated watching classics like "Casablanca" and "Gone With the Wind" on a TV screen. "You have to sit in your living room and try to imagine what it’s like to watch these films on the big screen."

A matinee crowd watches "The Apostle," starring Robert Duvall, at the Norshor Theater on March 7, 1998. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)

Big crowds

Boo couldn’t be happier that people are sounding off about films they want to see at the Norshor. He also doesn’t mind fielding occasional complaints about the theater’s sound quality being a little fuzzy; he’s having technicians "tweak" the sound system.

Customer input means the theater — in which Crossroads Flux secured a $31,575 low-interest Duluth Economic Development Authority loan and generated another $113,000 in private investor cash for the first phase of renovations — is finding its niche.

Boo said the theater is averaging between 40 and 45 customers per show, exceeding the 35-per-show mark that he projected as necessary to break even.

The 234-seat upstairs theater was filled to capacity for a recent Sunday matinee showing of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

"We weren’t expecting that, but we got everybody in and ran the film," Boo said.

Although he’s been working a breakneck schedule of 15-hour days since the theater reopened, Boo said the effort is paying off with moviegoers responding to the Norshor’s fare of non-mainstream, "more thought-provoking" films. And they’re gradually catching on to the lounge, he said.

Asked to describe the Norshor’s appeal, Boo said, "I think it’s the combination of the old theater, just that experience itself, and the fact that independent films never show (in the Northland), or at least on rare occasions."
Aside from growing pains of burnt popcorn and, in his debut as projectionist, a burnt film, Boo said the theater and staff are progressing nicely.
Now his biggest headaches come from trying to find rare copies of older films. Boo said there’s a distribution freeze on original copies of "Grease" and "Doctor Dolittle," for example, as Hollywood prepares to release new versions.
"We don’t have enough time in the day to bring all these films through," Boo said. "Then you get into foreign films, and there’s a million great foreign films out there."
He plans to show cult classics, such as "A Clockwork Orange," as late-night weekend attractions. A recent showing of "Friday the 13th" attracted a big late-night house.

The NorShor Theatre in downtown Duluth, September 19, 1999. (Renee Knoeber / News-Tribune)

Next phase

The next phase of Boo’s plan is to open a 450- to 500-seat theater downstairs. Such a theater, which is expected to cost about $200,000 and open next fall, would likely open the floodgates to another wave of Norshor nostalgia.

It was in 1941 that The Orpheum, originally opened in 1910 as a vaudeville house, was transformed into the Norshor moviehouse. Films ran fairly consistently until the 1980s, when hard economic times shrunk Old Downtown business activity and multiple-screen theaters were built in retail corridors.

Barbara can’t wait until the downstairs screen opens. She plans to bring her wheelchair-bound friends over on a regular basis. Wheelchair-bound filmgoers can currently get to the balcony theater through a back entrance; there is, however, a short flight of stairs into the theater.

"I love movies," Barbara said. "I like mainstream movies, too. I was just really impressed with the ("The Apostle"). These days, your independent movies are right up there."

That’s the main draw for Wayne Anderson of Duluth, who saw "The Apostle" on Tuesday night.

"I think it’s nice to have a theater downtown, for one thing," he said. "And it sounds like they’re going to have some alternative films you wouldn’t see at the cineplex 1-12. So I kind of like it."

Anderson liked the concept so much that he was in the theater for the Norhsor’s grand-reopening screening of "Eve’s Bayou."

That film told the story of forces of voodoo sweeping through a Southern town and family.

Whether Boo needs otherworldly intervention to keep the Norshor going as an alternative theater remains to be seen. But if the crowds filling the theater are any indication of demand, he won’t need to be asking any fortune tellers about this project’s fate.

To Barbara Main — a Duluth native who’s been there, done that and is now back happily doing it all again — it’s all about the feeling of seeing a timeless classic, such as 1963′s "The Haunting," on the big screen.

"It is scarier, it is more gripping and more exciting when you’re sitting in a dark theater," she said.

Especially in the company of an old, dear friend.

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Here are a few more NorShor photos:

Harlin Quist, seen above in the 1980s in a News Tribune file photo, was a native of Virginia who became famous for sophisticated children’s books, then returned to the Northland to try to to revive the NorShor Theatre with avant-garde dance and theater.

He presented dance companies including the Hubbard Street troupe from Chicago, staged contemporary plays and presented conversations with authors like Edward Albee. In 1994 he became ill with myasthenia gravis, which forced him to withdraw, and the building reverted to its previous owners.

Quist died on May 13, 2000, at age 69.

"If Harlin had a fault, it was that he gave people too much credit," Dominic Papatola, former theater critic for the Duluth News Tribune, told the paper for Quist’s obituary. "He assumed that if he brought top-caliber dance to town, Duluth would come to see it. They didn’t. He assumed that if he put his heart and soul into making the Norshor a success, the community would step up and do its part. It never did."

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Duluth performers (from left) Oddio Nib, Tim Kaiser and Randy Jorgensen rehease at the Norshor Theater on July 26, 1994, for the upcoming "Fishing in the Stream of Consciousness" in Duluth. The performance artworks include narrative, music, video, slides and poetry. (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)

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Marvin Pomeroy, manager at the Stage Door Lounge in the Norshor Theater, December 23, 1996. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

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Trevor Peterson sorts through and organizes all the marquee letters at the NorShor Theatre on March 30, 2004. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

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Jamie Ness plays before a NorShor Theatre audience to open a concert by the Ashtray Hearts, the Rivulets and Divorcee on November 16, 2001. (V. Paul Virtucio / News-Tribune)

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Geek Prom organizers Scott Lunt (on ladder) and Paul Lundgren work on the Norshor Theatre marquee on April 7, 2002, in preparation for the event. (Ingrid Young / News-Tribune)

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Share your memories of the NorShor Theatre by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

A and Dubs, 1996

July 7, 1996

Customers fill the parking lot at A & Dubs, 3131 W. Third St. in Duluth, on a warm evening in the summer of 1996. (File photos by Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

WEST END ICON

DULUTH’S LAST DRIVE-IN SERVES SIDE OF TRADITION WITH BURGERS

News-Tribune

It’s a hot, sticky night — a rare treat for Duluth and a great night for an ice cream float.

The drive-in is hopping.

“Char-basket! Hunter burger! Two fries!” Mat Bartig, 19, shouts orders to the cooks as he fills mugs with frothy, ice-cold root beer. Amid the excitement, Mat’s curly hair swings across his shoulders. A broad smile rarely leaves his face.

But it’s just work, he insists. Just another job.

Here at A & Dubs — Duluth’s first and now last drive-in — it’s really more. It’s family, friends. The hangout. It’s neighborhood, a true West End icon. And it’s tradition.

Mat probably will realize all that someday, perhaps decades from now when his own son is working the counter at A & Dubs.

That’s the way it happened for Mat’s dad. Dave Bartig poured root beer here in the 1960s and ’70s. He fell in love here and later married an A & Dubs cook. Today, two of his sons work the same job he did. A third waits in the wings, grinning knowingly when asked about the day he, too, will be old enough to take his place behind the counter.

“This place is high school for us,” Dave said outside the drive-in, his arm draped across his wife’s shoulders. “It was the place to hang out when Julie and I were in high school. The East End had the London Inn. The West End had A & Dubs. This is the heart of our neighborhood. This was always the place.”

The Bartig family of Duluth, seen here in the summer of 1996, has a long tradition of working at A & Dubs. Julie and David (center) met there about 20 years ago. Mat, 19, and Jason, 16, work there now, and Ben, 13, (left) thinks he’ll work there someday, too. The signs are circa 1967.

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A & Dubs has changed little since it was built by Lloyd and Shirley Tillman and opened as an A & W in 1948.

James and Lois Kent took over in 1959 and remained affiliated with the national restaurant chain until 1973, the year A & W decided to can its root beer and sell it in stores. That was also the year they insisted all their franchises use the same menus. Mama Burgers and Teen Burgers were in. The Kents’ homemade barbecue sauce and popular cole slaw would have to go.

But they didn’t. The Kents counted on the loyalty of their customers and decided to go it alone. They changed the name of the restaurant slightly, stuck with the familiar brown-and-orange color scheme and stood by their menu, which has always been painted on wooden boards and hung outside the building.

“We were able to keep our niche. We still have something unique to offer,” said Sandy Hantz, who with her husband, Syl, took over A & Dubs from her parents in 1978. “It’s still a mom-and-pop place. We don’t have a fancy building and we’re definitely off the beaten track.”

A & Dubs owners (right) Sandy and Syl Hantz in summer 1996. They took over the West End drive-in restaurant from her parents in 1978.

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But A & Dubs is tradition. It’s almost like a habit. Like the owners who have passed the business from one generation to the next or like the employees who work the same jobs as their parents, people just keep coming back to A & Dubs Drive-In.

“We’ve tried lots of places but no one has the good food like here. There just isn’t anyplace like this anymore,” said Brian Ronding, a loyal customer since the 1950s. He was at the drive-in recently with his polished 1953 Ford, because hey, some things never change.

“We used to always park in the front so your friends would see you and you could show off your car,” said Ronding, who was parked about as close to the restaurant and to busy West Third Street as possible.

“I hung out here when I was a teen-ager,” said Ed Niemi, a Morgan Park resident who first came to A & Dubs 15 or 20 years ago. “I thought I had a fast car and this was the place to take it. I still come here today because you can still see the good-looking carhops.”

In the old days, landing a job as a carhop was about as cool as landing a spot on the cheerleading squad. The job had social status. By 1950s standards, you were somebody.

Carhop Sandy Lund delivers lunch with root beers to a customer’s window at A & Dubs in summer 1996.

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Today, being a carhop just means you have a job you love, say the women who learn quickly to keep track of the mugs and to protect the food-filled trays by walking through doorways backwards.

“Everybody that’s here loves their job,” said Sandy Lund, who’s been hanging trays on partially closed car windows for 13 years. “They keep coming back. They don’t quickly give up their job. I can’t ever leave it. Someday, I’ll be here waiting on cars with a walker.”

“It’s only tough when it’s hot outside,” said Deann Dieryck, 19, a carhop for four summers. “People get crabby when it gets hot. They sit in their cars and get mad if you don’t wait on them right away.”

The job also can be tough when it’s cold. Before 1973, when a small, heated seating area was added to the front of the restaurant, carhops used to huddle near a space heater outside to keep warm between cars.

But it never gets too cold. The drive-in closes in mid-October and opens again in mid-April.

“In the West End and West Duluth, we mark our calendars by A & Dubs,” said longtime customer Cori Netland. “We ask a month ahead of time when they’re going to reopen and we dread the day they close. That’s always a sad day in the fall when all we can do is look forward to spring.”

Dan Ahonen enjoys lunch with his son Jeff in their 1967 Corvette at A & Dubs in Duluth in summer 1996.

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Another summer season is at hand, and the wait for A & Dubs to open for another season is on. At last report, the restaurant was still boarded up from its winter hiatus. There’s no word on when it will reopen for another summer of root beer and Hunter Burger baskets.

Share your memories of A & Dubs by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

Met Stadium memories

Earlier this week we brought you photos and stories from the opening of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 1982. While we were digging up those photos, we came across a bunch of photos of its predecessor, Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. Here are a few:

 Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, September 14, 1980 – a 42-7 loss – at Metropolitan Stadium. (News-Tribune file photo)

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A soccer match at Metropolitan Stadium, circa late 1970s. It illustrated a 1980 season preview for the Minnesota Kicks, but the caption does not make clear if the photo is in fact of the Kicks from a prior season. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Fans tailgate outside Metropolitan Stadium prior to a game (possibly Twins) on June 7, 1979. (Duluth Herald file photo)

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A vendor pours a couple of Olympia beers – price $1 each – during a game (possibly Twins) at Metropolitan Stadium on June 7, 1979. (Duluth Herald file photo)

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Thousands of fans head onto the field at Metropolitan Stadium after the stadium’s last game – a 10-6 Vikings loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on December 20, 1981. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Fans tear off pieces of the Metropolitan Stadium scoreboard after the last game ever played at the facility – a Minnesota Vikings loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on December 20, 1981. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

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Fans tear off pieces of the Metropolitan Stadium scoreboard after the last game ever played at the facility – a Minnesota Vikings loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on December 20, 1981. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

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The "Old Met" sits empty on April 4, 1982 – as the Twins prepare for their first Opening Day in the new Metrodome. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

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Met Stadium lingered on, abandoned, for a few years before it was torn down in 1985. The site of the stadium is now occupied by the Mall of America. For more on the history of Metropolitan Stadium, click here.

Share your memories of Met Stadium by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

Metrodome memories, 1982

April 1982

The scoreboard at the then-new Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome welcomes Twins fans in April 1982. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

As the Minnesota Twins prepare to officially open their new home, Target Field, next week in an Opening Day matchup against Boston, we take a look back at the last time the Twins moved into new digs.

When the Metrodome opened, the Twins played a couple of exhibition games to “test” the new facility. The first official game played at the new venue was on April 6, 1982, against Seattle. News Tribune reporter Mark Stodghill was there; here’s his account of the game as published in the April 7, 1982 paper:

The largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game in Minnesota, 52,279, will remember the Tuesday night the Minnesota Twins met the Seattle Mariners to officially christen the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome for major league baseball.

They’ll remember seeing Pearl Bailey singing the national anthem like no one else can. They’ll remember Muriel Humphrey Brown looking proud as punch as she threw out the ceremonial first ball in the park named after her late husband.

But what real fans will remember most is a couple of rookies — Seattle’s Jim Maier and the Twins’ Gary Gaetti. Maier, a 24-year-old first baseman, had three hits, including his first major league home run, and drove in five runs to lead Seattle to an 11-7 victory over the Twins.

Gaetti’s numbers were almost as impressive as the crowd total. The 23-year-old third baseman went 4-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI. He came within a foot of the fence of hitting three homers and almost legged that near-miss into an inside-the-park home run, but was nailed at the plate and had to settle for a triple.

The Hump had been billed as a hitter’s park and that’s just what it was on Opening Day. …

Gaetti led the 11-hit Twins parade. Rookie teammate Kent Hrbek added two hits and two RBI and Dave Engle and Mickey Hatcher added two hits apiece for the losers. …

Twins starter Pete Redfern was the losing pitcher. Redfern pitched the first five innings and gave up six hits, five runs. He struck out two and walked one. …

The fans, who seemed in awe of the whole place, or perhaps worried about how they were going to get out and find their cars, came to life for one of the few times when Gaetti hit a leadoff homer over the right-field fence in the seventh.

Gaetti, Bailey’s national anthem and an announcement that no smoking was allowed in the stadium drew the most reaction from the fans. Most of the rest of the time they didn’t seem to know how to act. They didn’t clap much except when two hands were flashed clapping together together on the scoreboard and then it seemed like just token applause.

Hrbek brought them to life a final time with a two-run single in the eighth, but that was the end of the fireworks. Well, not quite. Someone from the first base boxes threw a cherry bomb on the field. “That wasn’t too smart,” public address announcer Bob Casey piped.

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The Twins’ locker room at the Metrodome, April 1982. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

A couple of days earlier, after one of the exhibition games, Stodghill also had this report on the new clubhouses at the Metrodome:

TWINS FIND DUGOUT TOO FAR FROM COFFEE SUPPLY

By Mark Stodghill, News-Tribune staff writer

It took a lot of thought, But Minnesota Twins coach and hitting instructor Jim Lemon found something he didn’t like about the brand-spanking-new Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome which opened for indoor baseball over the weekend.

"I haven’t found a thing yet that I don’t like about this place. I haven’t seen an airplane in two days. That other place (open-aired Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington) was ‘zoom-zoom’ all day long," Lemon said initially.

"Oh, I’ll tell you something," he added. "The dugout is too far away from the clubhouse and the coffee pot."

The Twins clubhouse, one of four locker rooms located under the Metrodome’s infield stands, is a distance away from the playing field – four flights and 44 stairs away. "My pitchers will get in shape just walking to and from the clubhouse," Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres said.

When it’s considered that it took $55 million to build the Metrodome and that $2.5 was spent on a prodigal scoreboard, the Twins clubhouse is almost austere. It isn’t any more luxurious than their dressing facilities at Metropolitan Stadium. Even less so when it’s considered the old place had a sauna. The new locker room does not.

Kent Hrbek’s locker at the Metrodome, April 1982. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

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The home baseball team’s dressing cove underneath "The Hump" is functional. There is the main locker room for the players with 40 open wire lockers. One of the snafus is that the lockers were built with oak benches in them. The problem is that if the players sit on the benches, their heads end up in the legs of their pants hanging from the rack. …

Twins equipment manager Ray Crump ordered red, white and blue beach chairs, and the players sit in front of their blue lockers, not in them. …

"This clubhouse is about the same size as the one at Metropolitan Stadium, but I had more storage room at the other place," Crump said. "The best thing about this place is that I won’t have to move out 25 times like I did last summer for the Vikings and Kicks. This belongs to us."

The Vikings will have their own clubhouse, there is another one for visiting teams and the fourth will be used by the Minnesota Gopher football team if it plays in the Dome. …

Among the staples in the Twins clubhouse are two types of tap beer, bottled and canned pop, candy, leaf tobacco, snuff and plenty of bubble gum – all kinds, even pouches of Big League Chew, shredded pink strips imitating tobacco.

But the dugouts are situated far enough away that not many players are going to have time to sneak up and fill their pockets with goodies like they did in the old days at the Met.

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Here are some more photos of the Metrodome from its construction and grand opening… check back later this week for some archive photos of its predecessor, Metropolitan Stadium:

Construction work continues on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in this view from May 1981. It hosted the Twins opener in April 1982. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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There was snow outside… but warm conditions inside for the first baseball games at the Metrodome in April 1982. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

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Twins fans check out the menu and prices at a Metrodome concession stand in April 1982. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Share your Metrodome memories by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger

Loop Foods closes, 2003

October 18, 2003

Rosemary Capocci helps carry out bottles of soda for Loop Foods customer Jim Kaas on October 17, 2003. Kaas has been shopping at the store in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood for almost 50 years. "It’s very sad the store is closing,’ Kaas said. "They’ve been a part of this community for a long time.’ (Justin Hayworth / Duluth News Tribune)

LAKESIDE TO LOSE LOOP FOODS STORE

By Jane Brissett, News Tribune staff writer

After 61 years in business, the Lakeside neighborhood’s Loop Foods will close for good sometime in the next week.

The decision came after a difficult year that included the loss of the store’s Supervalu designation, said owner Mark Sienkiewicz, who has owned the store since 1998.

And it will be missed, because the store is a neighborhood institution. It’s the last of several grocery stores that once operated in the 44th to 47th avenue east area. Loop is at 4425 E. Superior St.

"It’s going to leave a big hole in the neighborhood,’ said Carol Fleischmann, who has shopped there since the mid-1940s. "I’ve just talked to several who are going to miss it.’

Sienkiewicz said the store was unprofitable for the entire time he owned it, but when he bought it, he expected it would start making money after three years.

However, three years later, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took place.

"The day it happened, we dropped 20 percent,’ he said. Business stayed at that level but then dropped another 20 percent when Superior Street construction began July 7. Each week since, its sales have been from 20 percent to 42 percent below the post-Sept. 11 level, he said.

Road construction was just one of many factors that led to Sienkiewicz’s closure decision. High employee costs and taxes also contributed, Sienkiewicz said. The staff has been reduced from 12 to himself, his mother and two part-time employees.

Rosemary Capocci hugs longtime Loop Foods customer Carol Scharnott at the Lakeside store on Oct. 17, 2003. The small grocery store will be closed by the end of the month. "I got a friendly hug every time I came in, and you can’t expect that at the other stores," Scharnott said. (Justin Hayworth / Duluth News Tribune)

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Loop began as a Supervalu in 1942, but four months ago, the designation was removed because the store no longer met the corporation’s sales requirements over a four-week period, Sienkiewicz said. Supervalu spokeswoman Polly Deane said the corporate office doesn’t comment on the status of individual stores. Supervalu stores are independently owned, not franchises or owned by the corporation.

In recent months, Loop has been supplied by convenience store wholesaler Core-Mark. But Loop used to be considered a large operation.

"At one time, it was the biggest store in town,’ said Virgil Dock, who founded the store.
Dock opened Loop at 4507 E. Superior St., where Falk’s Pharmacy now sits, with partner Bill Knutson. According to Dock, who sold it in 1992 to Tom Mosiniak, it was the first self-serve grocery in Duluth. Before that time, grocery store customers went to a counter and clerks picked items off the shelves for them.

Because of ill health, Knutson left the business when Loop moved to its current location in 1955. A grocery store affiliated with the National-Tea chain previously occupied the space.

"We did more business per square foot than any other (Supervalu) store in Minnesota,’ Dock said.

At one time, he had 23 employees, including three butchers. All five of Dock’s children worked there, too, when they were old enough.

"I had a lot of wonderful people that worked for me,’ he said. "They were more of a family than they were employees.’

Doing business was fun, he said, partly because of the people he met.

"During my many years in business, I met many, many lovely people,’ Dock said.

Mosiniak recalled the "very, very loyal’ customers that frequented the store. Mosiniak now co-owns Homecroft Supervalu.

Dock still owns the building, which Loop will vacate by the end of the month. Plans for the space are uncertain.

Sienkiewicz will close the store when his inventory is sold, probably by the end of next week. Prices will be reduced from 25 percent off to 50 percent off Monday. An auction is scheduled Oct. 29.

Fleischmann pointed out that many small grocery stores have given way to larger ones, but that doesn’t alleviate the disappointment of losing the neighborhood grocery.

"It was a very nice and good grocery store,’ she said.

Mark Sienkiewicz, owner of Loop Foods, and Rosemary Capocci move refrigerated items into a different case after unplugging some of the store’s almost-empty refrigerator cases on Oct. 17, 2003. (Justin Hayworth / Duluth News Tribune)

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Marc Sienkiewicz, owner of Loop Foods, stands in front of his store on Superior Street in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood on Sept. 8, 2003. The construction on the street has dramatically slowed the business to his store. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)

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The building that housed Loop Foods now is home to Snap Fitness.

Share your memories of Loop Foods by posting a comment.

- Andrew Krueger