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Crafting A Business District In Northern Minnesota

A distinctive group of businesses is revitalizing and reinventing Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

By: Twin Cities Business, Gene Rebeck | March 31, 2017

Duluth Grill owner Tom Hanson, whose restaurant is popular with both locals and visitors, got a call in 2013 from Chris Benson, owner of Frost River, one of Duluth’s many small outdoor-products manufacturers.

Benson asked Hanson whether he’d be interested in opening a second location in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Benson had just the spot in mind: a run-down old bar across the street from his business that had recently closed. Hanson didn’t want a second restaurant, but he was willing to take a look.

“My wife, Jaima, and I have this bad habit of seeing the potential in something,” Hanson recalls, laughing and noting their love of fixing up old houses. They saw that there was a lot of restoration and risk in the purchase, but despite some curious design choices, the bar’s building was fairly sound. Still, Hanson took a pass"at first. A year later, the building was still available. The bank that owned it accepted Hanson’s cash offer of $37,000. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what have I done?’ ”

What he did was create a new restaurant. In mid-February, Hanson opened OMC Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant that gives two talented longtime employees"the Hansons’ son, Louis, and Jeff Petcoff"a chance to run their own show.

OMC Smokehouse is also one of the newest participants in what a group of local organizations and businesses have branded the Lincoln Park Craft Business District. And it’s part of a remarkable story of businesses, nonprofits and government working together to rebuild a neighborhood.

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