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BIZ BUZZ: Ernie’s on Gull Lake has new owners

Advertising agency RedHouseMedia moved to larger offices on the second floor of 1 / 2
Brothers Sean (left), Gene and Patrick Boylan were recently in Brainerd while va2 / 2

As of Monday, Ernie’s on Gull Lake restaurant has new owners. 

Brothers, Chris and Mike Foy and friend Zac Swarthout are equal partners in the venture. They are keeping the name and getting their feet wet learning all the aspects of the business this summer. They aren’t strangers to the hospitality industry. 

The three men worked together at different times at Madden’s. The Foys grew up in East Gull Lake not far from Ernie’s restaurant. Swarthout practically grew up down the road at a friend’s cabin. They all ate at Ernie’s during the years. 

After working together at Madden’s they started talking about starting their own venture or purchasing an existing restaurant. Chris Foy said they started bouncing ideas off each other during the last year. They looked aggressively at creating a British pub setting in Brainerd. But when they heard rumblings about the opportunity to buy the Ernie’s from owners Craig and Desi Dunmire of East Gull Lake they jumped on it. 

“It’s such a great place, wonderful setting,” Chris Foy said. “There are not a lot of restaurant/bars on Gull Lake. When one is available, you have to act on it.”

Foy said they don’t expect to make any changes right away and are looking at fall for a new menu. The sale has been in the works for awhile. 

Chris Foy, 27, worked at Madden’s through high school and college and was an assistant manager for three years at the resort’s golf club and experienced the hotel and restaurant side of the business. 

Swarthout, 30, worked at Madden’s as assistant manager and before that managed Giant’s Ridge Lodge in Biwabik. Mike Foy, 31, who lives in the Twin Cities, is a sales representative for Northwestern Produce Co. in St. Paul, which sells produce, fruit and dairy to restaurants. Chris Foy and Swarthout will be at Ernie’s full time with Mike Foy coming up on weekends.  

Chris Foy said staff members have been wonderful and the Dunmires built up the business, which has been part of a smooth transition. 

A re-grand opening event is planned after Labor Day. One of the restaurant’s signature items? A walleye sandwich.

RedHouseMedia made a move inside the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd. The advertising agency moved from main floor former classroom space to expand into half of the second floor space that once housed the Franklin Junior High School media center, also known as the library.

RedHouseMedia made the move last week. The agency opened in 2003 with what the company describes as “one table, one computer and two creative minds” as Aaron and Beth Hautala started the business on the front porch of their red north Brainerd home. 

In 2006, they moved into the Franklin Arts Center and hired their first employee the following year. During the subsequent years they expanded into additional classroom space for a photo studio and office. The move upstairs allows them to work in one larger space with a conference room, photo studio, design area and office. The agency now employs seven. In a news release, Aaron Hautala credited the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., Artspace and the Crossing Arts Alliance for the transformation of the Franklin Arts Center.

Parts of the Paul Bunyan Bowl are available to the highest bidder — bowling balls and pins, stained glass, tables, chairs, a 1992 International bus, neon bar lights, bowling shoes, replacement parts for pinsetters, office equipment and supplies and those iconic Paul Bunyan and Babe figures among others. Synergy Auctions is holding an online auction for the items now until 5 p.m. Aug. 16. There are 476 items. Items include TVs, an ATM machine, video surveillance system and walk-in cooler among others. For more information, go online to 

Minnesota-based Mann Theaters, which operates the Movies 10 at Westgate with partners Cinemark Theaters of Plano, Texas, extended its lease at the Baxter theater from Dec. 31, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2012. 

Steve Mann, president of Mann Theatres, said a lot of discussion has gone into a potential remodeling or building project for a new theater, particularly during the past two months. Extending the lease was necessary for either move Mann said noting either plan would need seven to nine months to complete. 

“It’s been a lengthy process,” Mann said, adding more should be known in six weeks. One of the added pieces is a potential sale of the Westgate Mall, which Mann said has delayed the process. Mall officials have declined to comment on a possible sale although Crow Wing County land services staff members have received calls from a prospective buyer. 

In regard to the theater, which is owned by the mall, Mann said he’s talked to both Developers Diversified and potential buyers. Movies 10 opened in December 1996 just before stadium seating became the trend. Talks about renovations to the aging Movies 10 has been ongoing for many years. A decision on a retrofit was expected in 2005. Talk of remodeling or building renewed with the addition of 3D movies, which are available at the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins. 

A used bookstore recently opened in the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library in Crosby. A grand opening is planned from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 19 to coincide with Crosby Heritage Days. 

The bookstore — Backstreet Books — was created along with a Friends Foundation. The effort came after the library benefactors, the Hallett Trust, advised the library funding would be decreased by 30 percent during five years and the library was tasked with coming up with ideas for revenues without cutting staff, hours or programs. 

In late 2010, three library staff members attended a conference in Rochester. They were inspired by a Douglas County Library example of opening a used bookstore in a study room. They knew they had resources of book donations and a room. They got a core group of six and formed a Friends Foundation as a fundraising arm for the library and operate the used bookstore for funding and income for the library. Last year, the group was awarded a $12,000 grant from the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation. A core group of six was formed with a goal of creating a nonprofit organization. Now there are 108 friends and more than $3,000 raised in membership fees. 

To create the bookstore they envisioned a “European-flavored shoppe with a ‘backstreet feel.’”

And they set up repurposed book art, taking books not considered “store worthy” and coming up with ways to turn them into art or decor. They created lamps, purses, bookmarks, coupon keepers, planters, shelves, artwork and jewelry. 

The bookstore opened July 12 and is operated by volunteers. Area artists donated images to sell as cards in the bookstore. 

Recently three brothers in their 50s, who have been vacationing in the Brainerd lakes area for a decade, were inspired by former President Jimmy Carter to do more than relax while enjoying the amenities at Grand View Lodge in  Nisswa. The idea that inspired them was Carter’s vision to learn more about the places they go beyond the surface view, by scheduling meeting times with area residents. The brothers came prepared with a handful of questions. What types of businesses and industries are here employing people? What is the political climate? What are area viewpoints on issues? How did the community develop?

Gene, Sean and Patrick Boylan grew up in Mankato. They picked the Brainerd lakes area for an annual gathering point because it was close to their sister who lives in Duluth and seemed to be a good central rallying point. Gene Boylan lives in Milton, Mass. Patrick Boylan lives in Omaha, Neb. and Sean Boylan lives in Edina. 

In talking about the lakes area, the brothers provided interesting tidbits about their own communities. They provided a real-life example of a trend in tourism where individuals are looking for an educational element or learning experience along with rest and relaxation. 

Mid-American Energy in Baxter is in the process of closing after being in business more than 30 years. Kent Schwen said his parents, Maurice and Marvel, in their 80s are retiring and he moved to be the geothermal manager at Goodin Company wholesalers in Brainerd. A more detailed story will be in next Sunday’s business section.