Coffee and cookies at Fitger’s

Duluth Homebrew Supply isn’t the only new store coming soon to Fitger’s Brewery Complex at 600 E. Superior St. in Duluth. (See today’s story in the DNT’s business section on the new home beer-brewing and wine-making store).

Cookie Temptations gourmet cookies will open a coffee shop in a lounge area on Fitger’s retail level next to Trailfitters. Besides coffee, the shop will feature the  decorated sugar cookies that are almost too fun and pretty to eat. Build-out for the coffee shop should begin around May 1 with it opening in June.

The cookie business will continue to operate its store and bakery at 4025 Woodland Ave. in Duluth.

The additions will fill the historic mall complex to capacity. What a difference a few years can make!

 

What’s next for the Brownie Furniture space?

On Saturday, the DNT broke the news that a Valentini’s satellite eatery and How Sweet It Is Cakes, a bakery and deli, are moving into the Holiday Center’s Skywalk level. Both plan to open in early June.

But what of the expansive space on the first level vacated by Brownie Furniture late last year?

The space isn’t leased. But while many would like to see retail in there, that’s not likely to happen.

While property manager Barb Perrella has shown the space to prospective tenants, it hasn’t been for retail use.

“Retail is very difficult downtown,” she said. “It’s not coming forward like we would like to see it.”

So expect the 26,000-square-foot space to be eventually converted into office or some other non-retail use. And expect the space broken up into smaller spaces.

“We won’t have 10 tenants in there,” Perrella said. “It will be two or three large users.”

“But it’s a large space,” she continued. “It will be perfect for someone.

Make that several someones.

Chinese cooking, Gannucci-style

Since the owners of Gannucci’s Italian Market in West Duluth bought the Jade Fountain Chinese restaurant next door two weeks ago, they’re raising the bar.

The food bar.

Fret not, regulars. The Jade Fountain’s menu isn’t changing, but the quality of the food is.

Today’s lead story in the DNT’s business section tells how co-owner Bill Kalligher has scrubbed clean the Jade’s kitchen and tossed out sub-standard foods and ingredients like MSG. He’s switched food providers to get better quality meats, produce and other ingredients to use in cooking.

But there’s more.

No more cutting corners. No more overcooking. And cooking with shortening is out, while healthier oils are in.

“When you cut corners, use a poor selection of beef, pork and chicken — those things in the end will show,” Kalligher says. “You need to start with good chicken and don’t overcook.”

But perhaps the best testimonial of what he’s doing comes from Kalligher himself. He has a large family and feeds them food from his restaurants. And he says he’s not going to feed them food that isn’t good.

Dodging an IRS audit

Want to avoid an audit?

Common slip-ups on income tax returns raise red flags for the IRS. So you can lessen your chances of being audited by simply avoiding common mistakes, offered up by the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants.

They are:

  • Misreporting your income. Make sure income from your W-2 and Form 1099 match what’s on your return.
  • Unusually high charitable deductions. If they exceed your income, who wouldn’t question it?
  • Unusually low salaries, especially when it’s for the principal owner of an S corporation.
  • Listing the wrong social security number. All it takes is a wrong digit to draw attention to your return.
  • Claiming losses from hobby activities, like horse racing or horse breeding.
  • Discrepancies in alimony deduction or alimony income listed compared to what an ex-spouse lists.
  • Claiming excessive business-related meal and entertainment expenses.

Of course, some audits are simply the result of random selection so they’re beyond our control. So keep receipts and other documents in your files to support your reported income and deductions…  just in case.

Stock stress? Fear not , the year ends in “5”

Do you eye the daily stock market fluctuations with dread? Just when you think you’re investments are home-free, they tumble again (seemingly because somebody sneezed in China).  And poof, there goes that early retirement plan.

Well here’s something that should lessen the stress for investors this year, at least for those with a superstitious streak.

USA Today’s Adam Shell recently wrote about a curious 70-plus-year trend that has occurred over and over again with the S&P 500 in years ending with “5.”

Like 2015

Since the exchange began in late 1920s, every year ending in “5” has ended up with positive gains. Quoting number-crunching research data from the Bespoke Investment Group, Shell noted that since 1935, the S&P 500 stock index ended those once-a-decade “5” years higher every single time.

Average gains were “an eye-popping 25.3 percent,” Shell wrote.

Even the two times the market got off to a losing start through late March — in 1935 and 2005 — those years still ended the year with gains, he noted.

And when the S&P sees gains, Dow Jones and and other stock indexes tend to as well.

The research failed to come up with a logical reason. But, calling the phenomenon a market X-Factor, Shell says who wants to be a buzzkill?

BB Makeup becomes a spa

The owner of BB Makeup Cosmetic Bar in downtown Duluth is celebrating her first year in business in a big way.

Soon customers can get more there than their special line of hypoallergenic cosmetics and a transforming makeup job applied by a professional makeup artist.

Beginning Saturday, owner Shannon Luloff is expanding her services. It will also include facials, spray tanning, foot reflexology, waxing, manicures, pedicures and hot oil hair and deep conditioning scalp treatments,

The kick-off will be celebrated from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the store at 101 E. Superior St. with one-half off deals, free gifts and giveaways, $15 mini facials, other special offers and cocktails.

Luloff said she’s expanding because people are always asking if they also offer facials and waxing services. Moreover, it gives the business more to offer special event customers, including weddings, parties, pageants, fitness competitions and photo shoots.

Moreover, the added services will allow them to use their expansive space more effectively and give the business a better chance at success, she said.

She’s also open to partnerships and collaborations with other small, complimentary business concepts, Others who have used the space so far include a fashion designer with a display on bridal headpieces, a woman who does teeth whitening and parties hosted by women selling jewelry, clothing and other items.

“I hope to see continued interest as these are fun and allow us to meet other female small business owners and to support each other,” she said.

With the expansion, Luloff said she’s hiring cosmetologists/ estheticians. She’s also started a Facebook group, “Twin Ports Beauty Industry” for people in the industry to share opportunities such as jobs, training and philanthropic efforts.

Gas price decline is over, expert says

Better fill up now. Gas prices aren’t going to get any better.

That’s the word from Gregg Laskoski, one of the industry analysts with GasBuddy. com. who media folks turn to for insight on trends in gas prices. GasBuddy, is the company that operates Minnesotagasprices.com.

After weeks — nay months — of dropping gasoline prices due to declining crude oil prices, pump prices have been slowly rising In Duluth. On Tuesday, prices ranged from $1.94 to $2.09 per gallon of regular unleaded. That’s up from around $1.81 a gallon when prices bottomed out a couple of weeks ago in Duluth (and reportedly even dipped to $1.79 at at least one station).

“The four-month slide in gasoline prices has indeed come to a halt,” Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy said in a press release. “Since Jan. 7 through Jan. 30, wholesale prices on average were up 20 cents per gallon, so there’s no doubt now that the first quarter climb is underway and is already being reflected in rising prices at the pump.”

Laskowski knows his stuff. He was right in mid-December after prices dropped to a then-delightful $2.19 a gallon in Duluth. At that time, he told the News Tribune that prices would continue to drop for at least another month before leveling off and starting to climb.

In the week ending Monday, retail gasoline prices in Minnesota rose 5.1 cents per gallon, averaging $1.99 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.

But what a difference a day makes.

On Tuesday, prices averaged $2.09 per gallon in Minnesota, a 10-cents jump. Still, that’s less than the $3.20 per gallon average a year ago, according to GasBuddy records.

Penney’s catalogues to return

Remember Penney’s catalogs? For decades, Penney’s put out 1,000-page “Big Book” catalogs a couple of times a year and dozens of smaller ones.

The retail giant stopped producing the hefty catalogs in 2009, then phased out the smaller ones the next year as the Recession and the rise of online sales took its toll.

But now Penney’s catalogs are coming back. At least the smaller ones are with a focus on home goods, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It turned out those catalogs were great for branding and driving sales. They generated loyal customers who also shopped in the chain’s brick and mortar stores. And many of its online customers weren’t new customers, but former catalog shoppers, according to the Journal.

Home items were the biggest sellers in the Penney’s catalogs, the Journal said. Indeed, the catalogs’ offerings of moderately-priced rugs, window treatments and bedding  and other household items were more extensive than what its stores carried. It was where you could find just the right style and size you needed.

At 120 pages, the first new Penney’s catalog will be sent out in March. But the mailing list will be limited to a select list of former catalog shoppers whom Penney’s wants to lure back, the Journal said.

The move comes as catalog mailings appear to be rebounding. After declining since 2007, catalog mailings increased in 2013, the Journal said.

And the storefront winners are….

The winners of this year’s downtown Duluth holiday storefront window display and lighting contest were revealed today. Of the 27 participating businesses in the annual Greater Downtown Council contest, here’s the category winners:

LIghting: Fitger’s Brewery Complex.

Most Original Window Display: CSL Plasma (commercial division) and Electric Fetus (retail division).

Most Traditional Window Display: Tele-Resources (commercial division) and Fig Leaf’s Boutique (retail division).

People’s Choice: Duluth Trading Co. with 178 votes (retail division) and CSL Plasma with 158 votes (commercial division).

Facebook Favorite: The Frame Corner & Gallery

So there you have it. Now go out check them out!

Best deals come before Black Friday

So you think you’ll get the best deals during Black Friday sales, huh?

Think again. You might want to hit the stores this weekend, instead.

The best deals are actually found in the weeks before Thanksgiving, according to data gathered by Adobe Systems Inc.

And the very best shopping days? The Sunday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

“Retailers’ biggest price cuts last year came on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and shoppers who bought items on the day before Thanksgiving snapped up the season’s lowest prices,” according to a Wall Street Journal story on the data.

So if you started your Christmas shopping weeks ago and finish by Thanksgiving, you’ve probably gotten the best prices and have bragging rights.

“The weeks before the Black Friday weekend offered better deals than the weeks leading up to Christmas. What’s more, those who shopped on Black Friday were more likely to find items out of stock,” the Journal reports.

The research shows how much holiday hype differs from pricing reality, the Journal said.