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After over 30 years, downtown Duluth’s lunchtime, bakery staple — The Exchange — to close

The Exchange, which offers restaurant food, cakes and catering, will close to the public at the end of September.

Exchange owner Mark Edwards watches employee Lisa Follmer smooth the frosting on a wedding cake Thursday. The Exchange is closing to the public at the end of the month. It will fulfill any outstanding catering orders after that. Steve Kuchera /
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The downtown Duluth lunch crowd at The Exchange on Wednesday all knew exactly what they want for lunch: A warm, home-cooked meal for a reasonable price.

But at the end of September, they’ll have to find it elsewhere.

The Exchange , located at 301 W. First St. in the Board of Trade Building, will close to the public on Sept. 30, but will fulfill its remaining cake and catering orders throughout October. A combination of factors is causing the closure, including the owner preparing for retirement, the ending of the business' lease and an upcoming increase in rent.

“It is kind of sad, you almost don’t want to say it out loud. … It seems so final when you say it and then you get (sad),” owner Mark Edwards said said. “It would be nice if someone stepped up and wanted it. "

On top of running a restaurant, the Exchange also creates cakes and caters events for numerous local businesses. They typically bake 20 to 30 cakes a weekend, which can fluctuate during wedding or graduation season, said pastry chef Lisa Quarlers.


As Quarlers frosted a multi-layered cake on Wednesday, she said she’s heard from everyone. And “they’re all upset — everybody is,” she said.

There’s been talk of having a pop-up store fill the space, as well as hope that a new owner would buy the restaurant, numerous restaurant employees said.

But for now, Edwards said the plan is to close to the public at the end of September, and he will finish the remaining orders by himself. Then, it’s likely retirement for Edwards.

Briana Lind, who typically eats at the restaurant once a week, said she’s been there ever since she learned it was closing.

“(It’s) super sad. I think I’ve been here every day the last couple weeks just to soak in as much as I can get before they close their doors on us,” said Lind, who works for St. Louis County in downtown. “It’s like home-cooked meals without being at home. And they’re reasonably priced, so it’s not like you’re breaking the bank for super good food.”

Jim McGlockin also grabs lunch at the Exchange for similar reasons, saying it was better than fast food. He said he’s disappointed it’s closing because it’s a good restaurant close to his job in the government services center.

Hope Mueller, an employee of ARI Network Services, said she's "running out of places to eat down here." She likes the friendly employees and balanced meals.

Most of the employees have been with the restaurant for a majority of its over 30 years in downtown. Jeri Maciejeski is one of them.


“It’s sad. It’s strange. But they say ‘one door closes, the next one opens,’” Maciejeski said.

Edwards has run the Exchange, which first opened in 1988, since 1997. He said the ending lease and upcoming rent increases are “the kick in the butt I needed” to retire.

Three years ago, high winds toppled a chimney on the building and its debris damaged the top floors. The restaurant and other businesses relocated for several months while it was repaired.

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