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Lake Superior Bottle Shop to close as block is redeveloped

Lake Superior Bottle Shop in downtown Duluth will close at the end of May as a new owner works to redevelop the entire block of First Street between Lake Avenue and First Avenue East.

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Lake Superior Bottle Shop is closing at the end of May as the entire block is redeveloped. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com
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Lake Superior Bottle Shop in downtown Duluth will close at the end of May as a new owner works to redevelop the entire block of First Street between Lake Avenue and First Avenue East.

“This is a revitalization,” said Brad Johnson, the developer who bought the building at 31 E. First St.

Johnson said plans for the block include a parking ramp, an apartment complex and an upgrade of the existing office building at Lake Avenue and First Street.

Johnson, a Chanhassen developer involved in several Duluth projects, intends to work with H&G Development, which owns the rest of the block. H&G is owned by former Duluth Mayor Gary Doty.

“I think what’s going to happen there is everyone in that area will be working together,” Johnson said.

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He said the new parking ramp - which will be built across the street from an existing parking complex already at capacity - could accommodate 500 cars. The planned apartments would be market rate, meant to house the downtown workforce.

The first step of the development will be upgrading the office building at the corner of Lake and First, which will become a more attractive property with the bottle shop gone, Johnson said.

“The city of Duluth is ready to activate the First Street corridor in a new way,” Mayor Emily Larson said in a statement. “This purchase places a stake for a new future.”

A liquor store has been at the corner of First Street and First Avenue East since 1988. Lake Superior Bottle Shop owner Ken Bluedorn said the liquor license was sold along with the building, so when it closes May 31, that’s it.

“We’ve got a ton of customers very sad about it; they used it as their corner store for years,” Bluedorn told the News Tribune. “And for many of the hotel guests … they’re going to have a void.”

The next closest liquor stores are in Canal Park and on East Fourth Street.

Johnson’s company, 1st and 1st Properties, said in a news release the downtown bottle shop has “historically created neighborhood safety concerns,” including a shooting inside the store earlier this year and recurrent police activity.

“There’s a handful that say we attracted the unsavory,” Bluedorn said. “But that's part of the business.”

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Lake Superior Bottle Shop, 31 E. First St., is slated to close. (Andrew Krueger / akrueger@duluthnews.com)

Brooks Johnson was an enterprise/investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune from 2016 to 2019.
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