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As leadership shifts at Duluth's Clyde Park, new brewery, hotel in works

Alex Giuliani will hand over leadership of the venue and restaurant he built, looking to the next chapter, with additional ambitions drawing his attention.

Alex Giuliani, left, poses outside of Clyde Iron Works with his daughter, Toni Giuliani-Hughes
Alex Giuliani, left, poses outside of Clyde Iron Works with his daughter, Toni Giuliani-Hughes, on Thursday morning in Duluth. Giuliani is going to transfer leadership at Clyde to his daughter.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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DULUTH — It was 2003 when Alex Giuliani bought the sprawling 10.2-acre Clyde Iron Works complex in Duluth’s West End neighborhood, breathing new life into the deteriorated industrial property and transforming it into a hub of activity, including a restaurant, event venue and community-owned hockey arena complex.

But now, after 20 years of sweat and toil, he’s ready to let go, even as he redoubles his efforts to grow the enterprise by opening a new local brewpub and hotel.

With the start of the new year, he intends to hand over leadership of the operation to his 30-year-old daughter, Toni Giuliani-Hughes.

It’s time, he said.

Giuliani, age 60, recalled how his mother, Maria, successfully launched a Northland optical chain as an immigrant. She also lent a big hand in helping him relaunch Clyde.

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“She was the most amazing businesswoman you will ever meet, and I see a lot of my mom in Toni,” he said.

Toni recalled being a tween, maybe 11 or 12, when she first toured the property and “thinking it was the most insane idea ever.”

“But then, when we started construction, I just remember walking through the kitchen when that was getting installed, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Dad as happy or as proud as he was that day,” she said.

Alex Giuliani, left, poses in front of a giant tree inside of Clyde Iron Works with his daughter Toni Giuliani-Hughes
Alex Giuliani, left, poses in front of a giant Christmas tree inside of Clyde Iron Works with his daughter, Toni Giuliani-Hughes, on Thursday morning in Duluth. Giuliani is going to transfer leadership at Clyde to his daughter.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

When Clyde opened for business in her teens, Toni worked as a cashier and dishwasher. “I’ve done it all,” she said. These days, Toni devotes most of her time to booking and tending to events at Clyde.

“I have complete faith in her and admiration for what she does,“ said Giuliani of his daughter.

Despite his newfound freedom after handing over the reins, Giuliani has no plans to slow down.

In collaboration with Dale Kleinschmidt, co-founder and former head brewer of Lake Superior Brewing Co., a business which recently changed hands, Giuliani expects to open his own on-premises brewery in mid-January.

Dale Kleinschmidt, the Head Brewer at Clyde Brewing, sanitizes equipment Thursday morning
Dale Kleinschmidt, the head brewer at Clyde Brewing, sanitizes equipment Thursday morning in Duluth.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Kleinschmidt has assembled a lineup of new equipment and has been fine-tuning his recipes in preparation for full-scale production. He said not a day goes by without someone asking when they can sip his creations.

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Clyde aims to offer six brews that all pay homage to the complex’s history, as a producer of heavy machinery rather than libations. That Clyde lineup will include a Steam Skidder Stout, a Stiff Leg IPA, a McGiffert Logger Lager, a non-alcoholic Operator’s Root Beer, a Whirley Wheat Beer, a Clyde Cream Ale and an Empire Kolsch Ale, recognizing the key role Clyde-built cranes played in the construction of the Empire State Building.

Some of the offerings from Clyde Brewing sit on the bar at Clyde Iron Works
Some of the offerings from Clyde Brewing sit on the bar at Clyde Iron Works in Duluth on Thursday morning.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“We have one of the most accomplished brewers in the state,” Giuliani boasted, noting that he had been toying with the idea of opening a brewery since the early 1990s. When a change of ownership briefly left Kleinschmidt without a job, Giuliani immediately swooped in to recruit his talents.

“It took a few years, but it looks like we’re finally there,” he said.

Clyde intends to operate as a brewpub, selling its product on premises but also offering growlers for sale that patrons can take home.

Giluliani expects the brewery will help solidify Clyde as an attraction. He also noted that the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center arena complex developed on Clyde property has now been connected to the brewery and restaurant by a passageway, so patrons moving from one to the other no longer will need to step outside.

Next, he plans to construct a 34-room hotel this summer. Giuliani said he aims to use some new building techniques and technology to speed the completion of the structure, which he expects to go up over the course of about eight months, with an eye toward energy efficiency and minimizing its carbon footprint. The project is expected to cost north of $10 million.

The hotel will be located across from the arena, and Giuliani said that if it proves as successful as he believes it will be, a second hotel will follow shortly thereafter.

“I think once the brewery is up and the hotels are done, we will see the complete vision come together,” Toni said.

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Giuliani is no stranger to tackling tough projects and recalled the state of Clyde when he first acquired the property.

“It was a massive undertaking, with the environmental and the structural challenges. Just to put something together required the efforts of many different entities,” he said.

A new Clyde Park sign sits in the parking lot of the Clyde Iron Works and the Heritage Center in Duluth
A new Clyde Park sign sits in the parking lot of the Clyde Iron Works and the Heritage Center in Duluth on Thursday morning.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Giuliani approached the property with a degree of reverence for its history, and while some structures were too far gone to be saved, reclaimed materials from those buildings have gone into the redevelopment.

He said that 300,000 old bricks have gone into the recast Clyde Park property.

“My two children and I palletized a lot of bricks and moved a lot of heavy timbers. But these materials just aren’t available any more. Some of them are 200-plus years old, considering a lot of the old-growth Douglas fir we saved,” Giuliani said.

Reusing old materials not only was the responsible thing to do, but it also offered other benefits.

“It’s given us an identity. It made the property very warm. Even though it’s 36,000 square feet of industrial space, it has a warm feeling. It feels like home to me,” Giuliani said.

The ambitious redevelopment has been recognized with numerous awards over the years.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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