Biz buzz: MillerCoors buys NE-based Crispin

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March 12, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch
Jeremy Zoss and Michelle Bruch
NICOLLET ISLAND/EAST BANK — The Northeast cider maker Crispin will soon stock more shelves nationwide.

MillerCoors purchased the company last month, praising Crispin’s skill at innovating new products. Crispin will operate as an independent division within MillerCoors.

“We’re planning on staying in Northeast,” said Crispin CEO Joe Heron, who sold the first batch of cider to Brit’s Pub in 2008. The company is headquartered at 405 Central Ave. “I live in Minneapolis, and this is our home base. We’re not moving to Chicago.”

Crispin grew 200 percent in 2011.

Heron explained the growth by noting that drinkers in America today are becoming more experimental; cider and craft beers are more popular than ever. Cider also appeals to a broader audience than beer, grabbing more women drinkers and more wine drinkers.

This isn’t the first time one of Heron’s companies has struck gold. He also founded the “nutritious” soda Nutrisoda, and it was later acquired by Pepsi.  

“I don’t know if I’ll ever catch lightning in a bottle again,” Heron said. “If you set out to build something to sell, you’ll never sell it. You have to build something really great.”

Heron said he did the MillerCoors deal to gain the capital that comes with a big company, particularly expertise in national distribution.

“We want to grow and help secure the company’s future,” he said. “We want everybody to have great jobs.”

He said Crispin will continue to focus on innovating new products — other Crispin drinks include “The Jacket” and “Crispin Brut.”

“That’s what we do,” he said. “You can be whatever you want in America, you just can’t be lazy.”

A new chapter for The Ugly Mug

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — The Ugly Mug, 106 3rd St. N., has a new owner and will soon have a new name. The business has been purchased by Billy Jackson in partnership with the After Midnight Group, which owns venues such as The Cabooze and the Cowboy Slim’s/Cowboy Jack’s restaurants.

Jackson has worked at various After Midnight Group restaurants since 1997. He plans to renovate several elements of the bar and reopen it with a new menu and a new name, Jackson’s Hole. Jackson said he expects to officially open under the new name in late March or April.

While the menu offering will be reworked, Jackson said it won’t veer too far from The Ugly Mug’s current offerings. “It’s gonna stay American casual,” Jackson said. “Burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads, stuff like that.”

The space above the Ugly Mug, Roc Bar, is currently being renovated. Jackson has removed one bar and moved the stage to the back of the space. He plans to host acoustic music and DJ sets in the space. The front part of the main floor will be reworked into a lounge area, with multiple couches and coffee tables. Jackson is also considering doubling the size of the main floor bar.

Former owner Erik Forsberg opened The Ugly Mug in 2008. He had been considering selling the bar since the announcement of his new restaurant Devil’s Advocate and recently finalized the deal with Jackson and After Midnight Group. Devil’s Advocate is scheduled to open April 10.

Jimmy John’s and second tenant coming to former Panera space

EAST HENNEPIN— On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Panera Bread location at 233 Hennepin Ave. E. closed its doors, but it didn’t take long for the location to attract new tenants. Building owner Dan Hunt confirmed that the space would be divided into two parcels for the new tenants, one of which is a new Jimmy John’s sandwich location.

Mike Mulligan, co-owner of the Jimmy John’s franchises in Minneapolis, saw the site as an ideal location for a new location, both because of the nature of the area and its distance to other Jimmy John’s stores.

“The area is very dynamic, but underserved in the category,” said Mulligan. “And the brand is very successful in the Twin Cities. It’s one of the top areas for Jimmy John’s in the country.”

A lease had not yet been signed for the second space as of press time, but Hunt is in negotiation with a potential tenant, a new restaurant and bar.

Taste Twin Cities tours return in April with expanded offerings

With spring right around the corner, Taste Twin Cities Food Tours has announced the return of its outdoor tours, starting in April. Taste Twin Cities Food Tours debuted its outdoor food tour last summer and offered indoor skyway food tours over the winter. For the upcoming season, Taste Twin Cities has added more regular tours, new route and restaurants and private tour booking.

Taste Twin Cities’ Riverwalk Tours, which were only available on Saturdays last year, will now be available Friday through Sunday most weekends through the fall. The three-hour tours begin at Gold Medal Park and end in Northeast. Along the route, participants will enjoy samples of various food and drink, including Thai food, barbeque pork sandwiches, gelato, local beer, cheese curds and more. Taste Twin Cities owner Rebecca Pfeiffer said she has also added a new “Heart of Minneapolis” tours that will be available on Fridays and Saturdays. Private tour bookings are available any day of the week.

For more information, visit

Spirit Airlines begins service to Twin Cities

Spirit Airlines has announced it will begin limited service at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) on May 31. The carrier will launch with flights between MSP and two cities, Chicago and Las Vegas.

The “ultra low cost” carrier’s business is structured around low base fares with additional fees for amenities such as luggage, snacks and others.

 “I am very pleased to welcome Spirit Airlines to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and wish the airline every success here,” said Dan Boivin, chairman of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) in a statement. “Competition among airlines is good for consumers, and Spirit’s unique low-fare business model provides a valuable alternative for cost-conscious travelers.  It is a goal of the MAC to expand choices for the consumer with more options to more destinations while maintaining our commitment to sound environmental stewardship.”

Minneapolis has strong showing in James Beard Awards nominations

Each year the James Beard Foundation recognizes the best restaurants and chefs from around the country. The 2012 semifinalists were revealed in late February, and Minneapolis had a very strong showing in both the national and Midwest categories.

Minneapolis had perhaps its best showing yet in the national categories. Eric and Andrew Dayton’s The Bachelor Farmer is nominated for Best New Restaurant. La Belle Vie earned two nominations for Outstanding Bar Program (Johnny Michaels) and Outstanding Chef (Tim McKee). Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart is nominated as Outstanding Bakery Chef. Alex Robert’s Restaurant Alma is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. Richard and Larry D’Amico are nominated for the D’Amico & Partners restaurant group in the Outstanding Restaurateur category. Manny’s Steakhouse is nominated for Outstanding Service. Sameh Wadi of Saffron and the World Street Kitchen food truck is nominated in the Rising Star Chef category.

The Twin Cities dominate the Best Chef: Midwest nominations, taking claiming six of the 20 spots, more than any other locality in the category. Minneapolis’ nominees include Steven Brown of Tilia, Doug Flicker of Piccolo and Stewart Woodman of Heidi’s. Mike Brown and James Winberg of Travail in Robbinsdale are also nominated, as are Russell Klein of Meritage and Lenny Russo of Heartland, both in St. Paul.

The James Beard Awards will be announced May 7.

Robbinsdale tech firm moves to NE

1ST AVENUE NE — A new technology firm is in town, recently relocated from Robbinsdale.

Fifteen employees from Terrapin Technologies have set up shop in the Banks building at 615 1st Ave. NE.

Terrapin President Kristefor Lysne said the vibrant street life is a nice change in the work environment — he enjoys bumping into fellow co-workers on the street.

“I have always liked Northeast a lot,” Lysne said. “There is good local food. I can leave my office, have lunch and be back within 45 minutes.”

Mayor R.T. Rybak welcomed Terrapin in a news release, calling the company a great fit for the city’s high-tech growth spurt.


Gangchen Bar & Restaurant, 1833 Nicollet Ave. S., has reopened under a new name, Tibet Kitchen. The restaurant features Tibetan and Asian foods. Gangchen featured a full bar, but Tibet Kitchen currently does not have a liquor license. The owners are working with the city to resume service of alcohol.  

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