New owner, new vision: three downtown Duluth businesses evicted

The Town of Duluth has not received any inquiries from Hall Equities

DULUTH, Minn. – In what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, three business owners in downtown Duluth were heartbroken tonight.

Chinese Dragon is now on the verge of closing.

Hucklebeary and Old Town Antiques and Books, forced to move. All of this news is coming in less than two months.

“It’s like family,” said Carol Jouppi, owner of Old Town Antiques & Books.

“I was born and raised in the restaurant business,” said Melisa Behrendt, a waitress at Chinese Dragon.

“It’s steep, now is not a good time personally to have a baby,” said Emily Ekstrom, owner of Hucklebeary.

Amid the hustle and bustle, stress now boils through the roof of this white brick building housing three local businesses.

“FedEx came with one envelope and it had three. I thought it was strange, ”Jouppi said.

After owning Old Town Antiques & Books for 11 years, Jouppi thought the letter was a joke.

“He said you had to be out of the building by January 31, 2022,” Jouppi said.

After reading twice, reality set in and sadness followed.

“I always told them if I left I would give them 90 days notice and expect you to do the same,” Jouppi said.

Steps away, a new chapter has been carelessly written for the owners of Chinese Dragon and their daughter who also serves inside the restaurant.

“It was a little shocking, especially when you’ve been in the industry for 40 years, all of a sudden you have to go,” Behrendt said. “It wasn’t like you wanted to leave, it was more like some kind of kick-out.”

After more than 40 years in business, his parents decided to retire. The last day for your favorite dishes will be New Years Eve.

“The regulars have been kind of like family, you get to know them more on a personal level,” Behrendt said.

For Behrendt, his lifelong memories of clients he will miss the most.

“I think people will miss me because it’s fun talking to them and hearing about their work, their kids,” Behrendt said.

For younger sister Emily Ekström, owning Huckleberry for the past four years has been a dream come true, often with obstacles in the way.

“Superior Street Reconstruction, I have to make a new plan, a pandemic strikes, I have to make a new plan, I’m going to lose your building, I have to make a new plan,” Ekstrom said.

Right now, the new plan comes at a difficult time for Ekström. She is expecting a newborn in a few weeks, if not a few days.

“If I’m not there we’re closed on Monday, if I get a package Carol takes it for me,” Ekstrom said.

As for the others, it is the family atmosphere that he will miss the most.

“It’s very difficult to see the building being demolished and turned into a parking lot,” Ekstrom said.

While the building’s owners, Hall Equities of California, have yet to officially make plans with the town of Duluth, Ekstrom, Behrendt (ant-bear) and Jouppi want the places they once considered theirs. house be turned into something. more dynamic for the vision of the city center.

“Downtown needs businesses, downtown needs energy and life, and the three businesses that are here right now are bringing that to downtown,” Ekstrom said.

“It’s Christmas, winter, and trying to find a place right away is not ideal,” Jouppi said.

Hucklebeary and Old Town Antiques & Books are both looking for new spaces to move into.

As for Hall Equities, it is the same company that in 2015 bought the ZMC hotels in Duluth, including properties like Edge Waterpark. The news came to light in 2017.

David H. Henry