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Deli, ice cream shop eye spring opening in Lincoln Park neighborhood

Work is underway to turn 1908 and 1906 W. Superior St. (to the left of Frost River) into Love Creamery and Corktown Deli and Brews. The space is owned by Frost River owner Christian Benson. (Jimmy Lovrien/Weekly Observer)1 / 4
Tom Hanson, owner of Duluth Grill and OMC Smokehouse, poses for a photo inside his third restaurant, Corktown Deli and Brews, expected to open this spring. (Jimmy Lovrien/Weekly Observer)2 / 4
The building was once a three-story hotel; two floors were removed after a January 1962 fire. (News Tribune file photo)3 / 4
Charred bricks and beams from the 1962 fire are still visible within the building. (Jimmy Lovrien/Weekly Observer)4 / 4

Stepping around construction equipment and through drywall dust recently, Frost River owner Christian Benson and Duluth Grill owner Tom Hanson described their vision for two storefronts in Duluth's Lincoln Park business district.

Once construction finishes within 1908 and 1906 W. Superior St. later this spring, they'll house Love Creamery, a local handmade ice cream company, and Corktown Deli and Brews, Hanson's third restaurant after the Duluth Grill and OMC Smokehouse.

The deli will smoke meat and salmon, cure pastrami and, after some additional licensing, make salami, Hanson said.

Food will be served on paper plates or in butcher's paper so it can be eaten in the deli's lounge area or taken to go. A large horseshoe bar surrounding a staircase in the center of the restaurant will serve local craft beers.

Hanson is hoping for a mid-April or May opening date for the deli.

The "Corktown" name is a nod to the neighborhood's history. A century ago or more, visiting Great Lakes sailors would stay in local hotels; the life vests carried by ships at that time were made of cork.

Benson and Hanson have been planning the deli for almost two years now, Hanson said. It was in part dependent on the success of Hanson's OMC Smokehouse, which opened a year ago directly across the street from the planned deli.

"I both credit and blame Chris for our project over here ... Chris called one day and really had a vision for the neighborhood," Hanson said.

Benson has owned the building for the past four years and has been waiting to fill the storefronts with businesses that fit the Lincoln Park neighborhood's emerging identity as a "craft district."

The building was once a three-story hotel; two floors were removed after a January 1962 fire. (News Tribune file photo)

The space sits a block away from Bent Paddle Brewing and its soon-to-open new taproom, and shares a stretch of West Superior Street with Hemlocks Leatherworks, Duluth Pottery and the Duluth Folk School.

"Being able to fill this with like-minded tenants is what I really wanted. I wanted to make sure that we got people in here that would draw customers down that are looking to shop, look around, eat food and all that kind of stuff," Benson said.

Enter Nicole Wilde, owner of Love Creamery, which launched in 2015.

She'll take the space between Corktown and Frost River. In addition to a storefront facing West Superior Street, a doorway will link Love Creamery to Frost River's retail store.

Wilde currently works out of the Superior Business Center, a business incubator and shared community kitchen in Superior. She's been selling ice cream from carts in the summer and wholesale product to area cafes.

Love Creamery employs three people right now, but will expand to nine or 10 once the space opens, Wilde said.

"To grow the business at this stage, I've got to look at my own space," Wilde said.

The back end of the store will serve as a production and freezer area, while the front of the house will serve customers, similar to a brewery's taproom, she said.

"It will be a new spin on the ice cream parlor experience," Wilde said.

She declined to offer specific details.

"Well, let's just say there will be more than just ice cream," Wilde said.

With a similar timeline as Corktown, Wilde hopes to open in late May or June 1 at the latest, she said.

The space was once a three-story hotel that was eventually converted to stores and apartments. However, a January 1962 fire severely damaged the structure and, with temperatures about 30 degrees below zero, the building was coated in a thick layer of ice from battling the flames. Crews tore down most of the building that day out of concern that the weight of all the ice might cause it to collapse, but the first floor remained. Charred beams still stretch across the ceiling and blackened bricks line the walls.

Most recently, the space being converted into the deli and creamery was filled by a pawn shop.

Since purchasing the building, Benson has been using the back of the building as Frost River's loading dock and warehouse.

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