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Biz Buzz: Olive Garden opens Monday

Olive Garden opens Monday

Olive Garden, which created 150 jobs in the community, opens 11 a.m. Monday in Baxter by the intersection of Highway 371 and Glory Road.

A short ceremony with Baxter officials is expected just before the restaurant’s opening for the lunch crowd.

Miranda Ahlers is the restaurant’s general manager. Her name is actually set in stone on the building’s exterior, which the company reports is a way to emphasize the importance the company places on its general managers. Her name was chiseled in Travertine marble imported from Tuscany, Italy, and is just outside the restaurant’s front door.

The 7,441 square-foot restaurant seats 246 guests and Olive Garden reports it features a design that is inspired by traditional farmhouses found in Tuscany, Italy.

“Olive Garden design teams traveled to Italy to work with Italian architects Fabio and Lucia Zingarelli and the result is a restaurant design that recreates the warmth and simple beauty of a Tuscan farmhouse,” Olive Garden reported. “Ceilings supported by exposed wood beams, stone and wood accents throughout, and terra cotta tile highlight the interior.

“In addition, the bar top is crafted from lava stone and hand-painted by artisans in Italy with a design created exclusively for Olive Garden. Vibrant imported fabrics decorate windows and dining seats, while hand-painted plates, adorn rustic stone and stucco walls.”

Ahlers has been with Olive Garden for more than seven years. Previously she was culinary manager at the Olive Garden in Eau Claire, Wis. She received her associate’s degree in hospitality and tourism management from Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire. She also visited Olive Garden’s Culinary Institute of Tuscany in the village of Riserva di Fizzano in Tuscany. Ahlers is one of more than 1,400 managers who have visited the culinary institute.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead the Baxter restaurant and a great team at Olive Garden,” Ahlers said in a news release. “In addition to our Italian specialties, including signature items like our homemade soups, garden fresh salad and warm, garlic breadsticks, the menu at the Baxter Olive Garden will feature limited time offers.”

Olive Garden reports it is still accepting job applications and prospective employees should apply online at

There are nearly 800 Olive Garden restaurants with more than 90,000 employees and the company reports they bring in more than $3.5 billion in annual sales.

Wausau Paper reports lower profitability at the Brainerd mill, which is expected to affect the company’s paper segment earnings in both the third and fourth quarter.

“We made the choice to accelerate the conversion of the Brainerd mill to technical paper grades as part of our strategy to divest the print franchise,” said Henry C. Newell, president and chief executive officer, in a news release.

“While the pace of the transition resulted in above-target cash generation, the compressed time period added complexity to the ability to position the additional capacity creating higher-than-expected margin pressure, increased product development costs and reduced operating efficiencies. Weakness in industrial end-use market demand has exacerbated the impact. With few signs of a general economic recovery, we now expect pressure on paper segment profitability through year end.”

Wausau reported its tissue segment “continues to demonstrate strong operational performance, driven in part by above-market case shipment growth of 3 to 4 percent.”

Wausau Paper stated its expansion program, including product development activities, remains on schedule, with initial start-up of the new paper machine in Harrodsburg, Ky., expected in the fourth quarter. “Additionally, our balance sheet is strong due to above-forecast cash generation and working capital reductions in our paper segment.”

“In the near-term, paper segment profitability challenges will significantly affect second-half adjusted earnings,” Newell said. “Consequently, we are reducing our full-year adjusted earnings guidance to $0.28 to $0.30 per share, and anticipate mid- single digit adjusted earnings per share in both the third and fourth quarters.”

The company’s previous expectation was for full-year adjusted net earnings in the $0.39 to $0.41 per share range versus prior-year adjusted net earnings of $0.33 per share.

Wausau Paper is scheduled to release third-quarter earnings after the market close on Oct. 29.

The Beanery Internet cafe, on Minnesota Avenue in Aitkin, reports it plans to move into the renovated Butler Building at 301 Minnesota Avenue by Nov. 1.

The Butler Building reported the space was customized for The Beanery to allow the business more room for activities, including entertainment nights, beer and wine nights and special catered events.

The Beanery, which opened in 2005, is owned by Amanda MacDonald and Lynne Jacobs. In a news release, Jacobs said: “It is very exciting for the Beanery to be a part of the Butler project. We are looking forward to new opportunities to serve the Aitkin Community.”

Sylvia Allen owns the historic Butler Building on Aitkin’s main street and has been working to restore the building, once an opera house.

Allen plans to restore the building’s three levels into retail, dining and event space in phases and is personally financing the construction and restoration through Bremer Bank in Aitkin and the Northland Foundation in Duluth.

Phase one has included renovation to the building’s exterior and first floor with room now available for tenants as of Nov. 1 in five retail spaces from 400 square feet to 650 square feet. For more information on the project go to

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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