Showing posts from June, 2022

Cook County to Review Vacation Rental Licensing Program to Make it More Effectiv

  Published June 6 in the Northshore Journal Cook County government created its first formal planning committee for a vacation rental program in 2015. After five years of discussion and public input, the county board passed an ordinance to require licensing and regulation of short-term vacation rentals that was effective January 1, 2020.  There are currently 246 properties in Cook County licensed for Vacation Rental. The ordinance is set to expire at the end of this year.  In April of this year, the board approved the formation of the Vacation Rental Steering Committee, consisting of eight members from county staff and elected officials, for the purpose of developing and recommending back to the Board a framework for a full review of the Vacation Rental Program. The Steering Committee recommended, and the Board approved, a full Vacation Rental Program Review Committee that will be charged with a comprehensive review of the current program and create recommendations for the Board to con

Fish Fry

  Customer Appreciation Fish Fry at Cook County Home Center in Grand Marais By Steve Fernlund The staff of the Cook County Home Center put on a fish fry over the lunch hour at the Cook County Home Center in Grand Marais on Thursday, June 16. They started frying filets of herring and whitefish for sandwiches at 11:00 and didn’t stop until the fish was gone before 12:30. The fish was provided by North Superior Fishery LLC, a commercial fishing operation based in Grand Marais. According to Eric Brisson, one of the partners at North Superior, they donated 30 pounds of the fresh-caught bounty of Lake Superior they’d caught the morning to help make the event a success. “We appreciate this opportunity to show the community what we produce,” said Brisson. “The customers of our lumberyard include some of the best building contractors on the North Shore,” said Nate Sheils, ownership partner of the Home Center. “Our Ace Hardware store and its online ordering option serve the whole community,” he

Bob Pratt Scholarship Fund Receives $25,000 Donation

On Saturday, April 23, the Bob Pratt Scholarship Fund hosted a cribbage tournament to raise money at the Birch Terrace Supper Club in Grand Marais. “It was great that the Birch closed its dining room that day to accommodate us,” said Tim Pratt, one of Bob’s sons. The Scholarship Fund was created by the Pratt family and Bob’s longtime friend on the Cook County Higher Education Board, Doug Bruce. The tournament saw more than 50 people participate and raised over $700 according to Bob’s wife Bev. “This was the inaugural of what we hope will be an annual event,” Bev said. After the tournament concluded, the Pratts found out that a donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, made a $25,000 donation to the fund. They were, in their words, blown away by the generosity of this anonymous donor. The fund was established under the auspices of Cook County Higher Education (CCHE) in Grand Marais to provide a scholarship that will help people start, develop, and gain new skills valuable for the applicant

The Long Way Home 6.24.22

Since early last month, the Grand Marais City Council has been considering a request from a food truck operator looking to place its vehicle on city-owned property at Coast Guard Point this summer. Current ordinances do not permit such a use. The topic was on the agenda and discussed over the course of three meetings. In its last meeting, the council essentially tabled the request, indefinitely, leaving the food truck operator in the lurch, needing a “peddler's license” and trying to find suitable private property to rent in the first month of the summer tourist season. This led to a flurry of posts on social media lambasting the unwillingness of the council to say aye or nay and to just do nothing. Naturally, most of those posters supported a city ordinance that would allow and regulate food trucks on city property, and they want it now. Back in the 1980s, I was a volunteer lobbyist, Chairman of the Legislative Committee, for the trade association my company belonged to. This invo

The Long Way Home June 17 2022

Some 20 years ago, at our local newspaper in Grand Marais, the intrepid news reporter Miss Vicki Biggs reported on the machinations of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. When the county board elected a new chairman one year, Miss Vicki thought it would be nice to have him stop by the office for a visit to meet and build a relationship with the editor, me. So one morning we met at my office. Mr. Chairman, a lifelong resident of Cook County and committed public servant seemed cordial enough. A handshake, a greeting, an offer of coffee. Then we sat down to chat. To my surprise, almost right away, the Chairman looked at me and said, quite seriously, “The problems in Cook County are all your fault.” Really? The newspaper, or I, or both are responsible for all the problems here? A shocking statement that I didn’t see fit to argue about. It was his opinion, even though it was utterly and obviously wrong. No amount of discussion would change it. We moved on to talk about other things. Des

Potter Mike Smieja Featured at Broadway Art Park in Grand Marais

When kids make it to high school graduation they often have to put their true love on hold and find a job to make a living. Often it’s well-meaning parents who demand they do that. Mike Smieja was just such a kid. Instead of making pottery for a living, what he always wanted to do, he let his mom talk him out of it. Mike grew up in Minnetonka, MN. He became a serial entrepreneur after high school, operating 15 different businesses in the Twin Cities area before he’d had enough. He owned coffee shops, bike shops, a catering company, and a couple of different marketing firms. By the time he was in his 30s, he’d graduated with a degree from the Carlson School of Management. He was the businessman his mom thought he should be. But the arts cannot be denied. Almost 25 years ago when he was in his early 20s, Mike bought his current home in Grand Marais. He visited off and on over the years and became a full-time resident six years ago. His specialty is wood-fired pottery where he applies a g

The Long Way Home June 10

When our oldest daughter was entering the fourth grade, we moved the family from East Bloomington, MN to West Bloomington, MN. To understand the cultural ramifications of this move, think about moving from Hovland to Lutsen. Or maybe think about the Jeffersons moving to that deluxe apartment in the sky. As young parents with four kids, we were hyper-alert to their happiness and safety. Other than an occasional night away from us, staying with siblings and grandparents, our kids had never been away from their doting parents. So when we heard that fourth-grade teacher Mr. Porter was planning a several-night field trip at a camp in Northern Minnesota, I had many questions. Attending the information meeting at the school I quickly raised my hand when question time was called. First, if I am paying taxes in Hennepin County to fund parks and nature centers, why do we have to send kids on an overnight trip to a nature center? Murmurs were heard in the crowd. Next, what about kids like mine w

LynxFit--Strength and Fitness Training for Everyone on the Northshore

Carmen Skildum is a certified personal and group trainer with her own gym in Grand Marais. She began training while pregnant with her first child almost four years ago and now invests 20 hours each week working with clients plus additional time for programming and the business side. A native of Grand Marais and graduate of Cook County High School, Carmen is married to local building contractor Chris Skildum. The household is booming with three kids, the youngest just 15 months old. To accommodate her growing business, Chris doubled the size of the Lynx Fit gym last winter. She currently trains 11 classes each week, basically two to three per day. “Group classes are what I’m best at,” Carmen said. Some classes are conducted outdoors, weather permitting.“No one wants to workout in a gym after spending all day cooped up in an office,” she said. Carmen designs training programs for people of all fitness levels, from beginners to top-level athletes and all ages. “It’s never too late to star

The Long Way Home--it's the people stupid

  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my capitalist leanings. Today, let’s talk about small businesses. According to the experts, one out of every five business startups will close in the first year. Experts like to call them failures, but sometimes they close for other reasons. More than half will be gone by year five. So business success--defined as having the wherewithal to stay around--is not a sure thing. People start or buy small businesses for many reasons. To be your own boss. To hire and fire at will. To earn an above-average income. To build a legacy for your family. To follow your passion. To have job security--who’s going to fire you? Besides customers and vendors? With your own business, it doesn’t take long for reality to sink in. For all the good things, small business is hard. Damned hard. If you’re doing it right, to get past the five-year survival mark, the hours you work will be long. The fun times with outside activities you had like a mere employee of someone else

Lake and Land Workshop June 9, 2022

The Cook County Coalition of Lake Associations (CCCoLA) is hosting a “Lake and Land” workshop open to the public at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais on the morning of June 9 from 9-11 am. The event is free to attend and registration is not required. According to Biz Clark, former Chair of the CCCoLA, “The point of the workshop is to examine the changes occurring in Cook County and the roles played by county and state government, tourism, realtors, and independent organizations such as CCCoLA as they affect the exceptional place that is Cook County.” The first hour of the program consists of presentations by the sheriff’s office, the Soil and Water District, the County Land Services office, Minnesota DNR, and the tourism promotion agency Visit Cook County. The second hour is devoted to questions and statements from members of the audience. CCCoLA considers itself, according to its website, to be an “action-oriented independent organization made up of Cook County lake and