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Coffeehouse, eatery to feature healthy foods in Lincoln Park

Current plans are for OMC Smokehouse to open at 1909 W. Superior St. (left) at the end of the year, while Boreal coffeehouse will open in the building next door in about a year. Both buildings are being gutted and reconstructed inside. (Steve Kuchera /

Having their own business has been a dream of Tom Donaldson and his wife for some time.

“We were thinking about a coffeehouse,” Donaldson said. “We had a lot of ideas. Essentially, we wanted to create a business and a space that we would enjoy as customers and with products we like to buy and put into our bodies.”

The couple are coffee connoisseurs and prefer healthy, organic foods, smoothies and baked goods not made with refined sugar.

So they plan to open Boreal, a coffeehouse and health food restaurant with a smoothie and juice bar at 1907 W. Superior St.

If all goes as planned, Boreal will open in March 2017, a few months after the OMC Smokehouse opens next door.

“It’s going to be a full high-end coffee shop, serving the finest espresso, using the best equipment and locally sourced beans,” Donaldson said of Boreal.

Its coffee prices will be comparable to Starbucks, while food prices will be similar to those at other modern cafes serving quality food, he said.

His wife, Heidi Frison, is a former professional baker.

“She’s a lawyer, but she will focus on the business when we open,” Donaldson said. “She’ll do the baking in-house and will train others to do it as well. It will be a super-healthy bakery.”

The menu will include gluten-free and Paleo diet options and use fresh, organic farm-to-table ingredients — foods that are nourishing rather than damaging, he said.

He said the business will have a full commercial kitchen and serve lunch. With a beer-and-wine license, they hope to expand into a nighttime bistro after a couple of years.

The couple recently returned to Duluth after a time living in South Carolina. There, Donaldson, a former Cirrus pilot, served as the personal pilot for a man in the construction industry. When that man retired, Donaldson and his wife returned to Duluth.

Donaldson’s former employer helped their efforts to open a coffeehouse. In January, he bought the Lincoln Park building the couple had chosen for $35,000, St. Louis County property records show. The building had been repossessed by a bank. Work to gut and renovate the 113-year-old building began a few months ago, overseen by the new owner.

Layers of walls were removed to reveal brick walls on the first floor, while layers of ceilings were removed to reveal the original ornate tin ceiling. Modern building codes, however, may require the tin ceiling’s removal because it’s a two-story building.

“We have to create a sound-deadening system,” Donaldson explained. “We hope to reuse it as a design feature.”

They will go for a modern rustic look inside the coffeehouse, its Boreal name inspired by the Northern boreal region. Outside, the exterior yellow panels will be removed and be replaced by a new storefront.

Renovations also will include the building’s second floor, which could house a yoga studio.

“It’s a big open space,” Donaldson said. “The owner is in discussion with someone who would use it as a wellness business.”