Tenants return to storm-damaged Board of Trade building; crews in second phase of restoration

Crews have removed more than 125 tons of debris from the sixth floor of the storm-damaged Board of Trade Building in downtown Duluth, the structure has been stabilized and tenants are returning.

The Exchange deli/bakery owner Mark Edwards moves food and supplies back into his business space on the first floor of the Board of Trade Building in downtown Duluth on Tuesday afternoon. The Exchange reopened to the public Thursday in its Board of Trade location for the first time since the building was damaged by storms on July 21. (Clint Austin /

Crews have removed more than 125 tons of debris from the sixth floor of the storm-damaged Board of Trade Building in downtown Duluth, the structure has been stabilized and tenants are returning.

But that's just the first phase of the building restoration, said Sandy Hoff, president of F.I. Salter Real Estate Services, which manages the structure at 301 W. First St.

The building was damaged - and closed to the public - on July 21 after high winds toppled a large chimney and sent the debris through the seventh floor ceiling on the south end of the building, crashing into the Minnesota Ballet's primary costume room. Crews used a large crane, which was parked for several weeks on First Street between Third and Fourth avenues west, to facilitate debris removal.

About half the Board of Trade tenants have returned to their spaces, Hoff said, except for those on the sixth and seventh floors. The hole in the roof is also patched temporarily.

"It now needs to be rebuilt," Hoff said of the building's damaged areas. "That's phase two."


The engineer working on the building released a structural report Wednesday stating that the structural integrity of the Board of Trade building was not compromised by the damage.

"It seems to have withstood the weight," Hoff said of the building.

Repairs still need to be made to the roof, elevator tower and interior walls, though much of that damage is just cosmetic, he said. Hoff estimated tenants who are still displaced will be able to return to their spaces in two to four weeks.

There were significant challenges during the first phase of of work, Hoff said. Before removing the tons of brick and mortar, crews stabilized the building by placing supports on each level. That kept the debris from collapsing through to the first floor, he said. Once the building was stabilized, crews removed remaining debris via chutes and a hydraulic bucket lifted by the crane.

Hoff said he believes a building constructed to modern standards would not have been able to withstand the weight of all of the debris. The Board of Trade Building was built in 1895.

"I think they built these old buildings with so much masonry and brick and steel," Hoff said. "That's pretty amazing."

Lisa Quarles, a manager and pastry chef at The Exchange Deli/Bakery and Catering Service, said employees started moving supplies back into the deli's first-floor space at the Board of Trade Building on Monday. The deli was open for lunch Thursday. The Exchange plans to host a grand reopening celebration at 1 p.m. next Thursday.

After the storm damage forced the closure of the building, The Exchange temporarily moved its operations to the Medical Arts Building on Superior Street. It was difficult to continue to run the cafe, bakery and catering as usual in that smaller space, Quarles said.


"We didn't realize how spoiled we were," she said. "We will never complain again."

The day after the storm, The Exchange went on a mad dash to save goods in its cooler, Quarles said, because city crews cut the building's power to assess damage. The Exchange's staff moved 42 cheesecakes to cooler space at Grandma's and all of its cookies to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, she said.

"It was just crazy," Quarles said. "You can crash the Board of Trade but you can't crash The Exchange."

The Exchange's space endured minimal damage as a result of building restoration efforts. Quarles said when crews set the supports throughout the building to ensure heavy debris did not crash through every floor, a support beam damaged tile in the space. Other than that, she said, the deli was relatively unscathed.

Jodi Elstad, owner of Board of Trade Hair Care, said she worked at Salon Capelli for the past five weeks while the building was closed.

"All in all it wasn't that bad," Elstad said. "I'm just hoping that some of my customers come back in because it was a bummer being displaced."

Elstad said she is thankful to return to her space where her supplies are easily accessible.

"It feels good to be back home," she said.


Gail Mantay (right) of Duluth and a friend visit while eating lunch at The Exchange deli/bakery. The restaurant reopened in its Board of Trade Building location on Thursday after damage from July's big storm caused it and other parts of the building to be closed to the public. Bob King /

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