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Jon Weisbrod / By JON WEISBROD 

LaVant Shaw, seen here last week at the Minnesota Vikings Junior Camp in Owatonna, attended Chad Greenway’s REACH football camp in late June and was named MVP on the final day. (Jon Weisbrod/People’s Press)

The beer is coming: Foremost Brewing Cooperative reaches fundraising goal, secures building

OWATONNA – There are few things that can be considered as American as baseball or apple pie, but drinking a refreshing beer on a hot summer day may just make the cut. As the people of Owatonna tried their best to beat the heat in the last couple of weeks, the timing seemed kismet for a group of people who have been trying to bring a one-of-a-kind experience to the city.

On July 10, the Foremost Brewing Cooperative reached their minimum fundraising goal $200,000 in pledges – less than a month after officially securing a building for the site of Owatonna’s first brewpub.

“It is so exciting,” exclaimed Kristin Warehime, one of the Foremost board members who has been a part of the dream since the beginning years ago. “Earlier this winter when we realized our other location wasn’t going to work out it kind of felt like an existential crisis. We just didn’t know how we were going to go forward.”

For nearly a year, the Foremost crew had their sights set on the former location of Bubba’s Bar in downtown Owatonna as the future home of the brewpub. Warehime explained that the layout of the building at 224 N. Cedar Avenue was both odd and difficult to work with, specifically because of the long and narrow floorplan of the two levels. Eventually she said the costs just continued to rise to the point that they realized it was time to go back to the drawing board.

In a twist of fate, one of the building investors for Foremost came forward with another site option in downtown Owatonna: the former location of Spurgeon’s department store at 131 W Broadway Street next to the American Legion.

“It’s a much bigger, more open space,” Warehime said as she walked through the building, pointing out the unique basement and the entrances from both Broadway and Bridge Street. “We would love to be operation by next spring, so we’re now we’re planning on that.”

While finding and securing the space seemed like the silver lining to the Bubba’s building not working out, Warehime said that the cherry on top was the rapid rate that pledges came in after the purchase papers were signed.

“I think people kind of realized that this is really happening,” Warehime said. “We raised more than $20,000 in pledges in just a couple of weeks.”

The cooperative began raising investment money in August after an open house and introduction to the public and have been offering two forms of members to help reach their funding goals. The original minimum fundraising goal was set at $260,000, but after deciding to size down on some of the brewing equipment the board realized they could lower that goal to $200,000.

People can still become patron members, which is a one-time membership purchase of $150 that the member will receive back in store credit, similar to that of a regular food co-op. When it comes to co-ops, patron membership is available at anytime.

The opportunity to fully invest in the business and become labeled a founding member, however, is dawning.

A non-patron member is considered the “investing membership” and ranges from tiers of $750 to $10,000 pledges. The non-patron members will get back their money in return, receive a founder’s T-shirt, have their name on the founder’s wall, and receive other items of Foremost founder’s swag. The deadline for this membership is August 15.

“We do have that impending deadline,” Warehime said about the non-patron memberships. “It seems that the closer we got to that minimum goal the more people started coming out, so hopefully that will continue to be the case now.”

The “stretch goal” for Foremost is $360,000, but once the $200,000 in current pledges is paid the cooperative will have the money to start working at getting the doors open.

While the options are indeed endless for the site on Broadway, Warehime noted that they will have a few limitations. Aside from some of the obvious obstacles, such as there currently being a lack of a stairway to access the second floor of the building, the building investors were able to qualify for historic tax credits that will bring them a 40% return on their tax credits over the next five years.

“We qualify for this because the building is located in a historic district,” said Roger Warehime, another Foremost board member and one of the building investors. “The term for the historic tax credit is contributing to the historic nature of the district, meaning our exterior will be brought back to what it looked like in the era that it was first built.”

The building in question was first built in 1893, and while Kristin Warehime said that they have yet to locate a picture of how the building originally looked, the historic tax credits will allow them to replicate other buildings constructed in that era.

As far as the Foremost board is concerned, they are happy to abide to those restrictions and remove the current white paneling that is covering the original brick.

Other design ideas Warehime discussed included putting the majority of the brewing equipment in the basement and putting the kitchen in the center of the ground floor — which would allow window seating on both sides of the building. Eventually, Warehime said that they are hoping to take advantage of the second floor and the original hardwood floors that come with it.

A Foremost board member will be available at the building to give tours on Thursday, July 25, from 5:30-7 p.m., Thursday, August 1, from 5-8:30 p.m., and Thursday, August 8, from 5:30-7 p.m. They invite anyone interested in either a non-patron or patron membership to come and see the building, learn more about what a brewing cooperative is, and ask any additional questions.

Warehime stated that the sooner they can get more investors, the faster they can get the ball rolling — and the beer flowing.

Let's Smile to conduct second comedy night fundraiser

OWATONNA—Let’s Smile’s first foray into holding a comedy fundraiser last summer was so successful than the local non-profit is offering another edition Friday, this time featuring a pair of Twin Cities-based comedians, John DeBoer and Miss Shannan Paul.

“Last year, we had about 200 people there, and it was a huge success,” said Holly Jorgensen, a licensed and registered dental hygienist who founded Let’s Smile in 2013. “The number-one comment we heard was you have to do this again next year, you have to bring comedians back.”

As was the case last summer, Friday’s show will be “clean, family-friendly comedy,” Jorgensen said. “Anyone could be there,” including youth, which is apropos, because Let’s Smile is “all about kids.”

Let’s Smile—which has been recognized for its work by America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF)—treats youth without private dental insurance and visits area schools to help students with dental hygiene. In addition to clinical services, Jorgensen also spends time in classrooms to educate children about proper dental care.

The operation continues to expand, as well, she said. Let’s Smile already serves all of Owatonna’s elementary schools and the ALC, as well as Blooming Prairie, Medford, and various Head Start schools, but, beginning this fall, Waseca’s schools will be added to her list.

Friday’s show is sponsored by eight local dental offices, including Southern Heights Dental Group, Dresser Family Dentistry, Prairie Ridge Orthodontics, and Holland Family Dental, all longtime supporters of Let’s Smile, Jorgensen said. “We’re not in competition with other dental offices,” but, rather, combine to form a “fantastic network of dental offices working together for our community.”

Friday’s show begins at 7 p.m. inside Bethel Church, and tickets are $5. Tickets are available at the door, or in advance from the Let’s Smile website and Facebook page.

“We want to pack the house, see people laugh, and have a great time,” Jorgensen said. Once inside the doors Friday, attendees will be able to contribute to Let’s Smile in myriad ways, if they wish.

A $5 donation educates one child in Let’s Smile’s dental health education program, including the tools—toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss—Jorgensen provides every student, $125 educates an entire classroom, and $500 educates an entire grade, she said. A donation of $200 provides one dental appointment for a child, $400 covers appointments for two children, and $1,000 takes care of appointments for five children.

In addition to her work inside schools, Jorgensen also maintains weekly office hours in the Steele County Clothesline. She provides individuals basic screening services to evaluate untreated tooth decay, check for oral cancer, and inspect for proper development, as well as doing cleanings, fluoride varnish treatments, and sealants.

Many of the children, teens, and adolescents Jorgensen helps have either never seen a dentist or have gone years between appointments, she said. Teeth, left untreated, can develop many problems, from plaque buildup, to toothaches, to abscesses, to gingivitis.

Relatable Humor

Jamie Blanchard, who performed at Let’s Smile’s first comedy night last summer, suggested DeBoer for this edition, Jorgensen said. “They’re really good friends, and he said (DeBoer) would be great.”

DeBoer had a propitious start in comedy, entering a high school talent show at age 16 in Moorhead and winning $50. He then hosted the talent show the next two years and “turned it into my own little ‘Tonight Show.’”

“I’m a lucky guy,” DeBoer said. “So many people have to go to jobs they don’t like, but I get to do what I love for a living.”

DeBoer has been “a mentor” for Paul and “a dear friend,” so when he asked her to join him for this event, she didn’t hesitate, Paul said. In addition, the cause is “near and dear to my heart.”

Paul isn’t only a comedian, but a speaker, host, and emcee, and relaying stories from her own life in humorous, relatable fashion is her specialty, she said. “I’m fortunate I’ve been able to make that into a career.”

The top question she receives after gigs is “Did that really happen?” and her response is always, “Yes, that really happened,” but, of course, her stories are more complex than merely regurgitating life experiences for comedic fodder, she said. She has to decide where a story best fits—in a stand-up set versus a corporate session—emphasize the joke and/or lesson, and, of course, self-edit.

“Lot of people don’t know how to self-edit,” and, especially in stand-up comedy, economy and efficiency can be paramount, she said. “Some jokes, to get to, you should chop out a third of the words.”

Often, one optimal word can replace three lesser ones, she said. “You think you need all of these words, and sometimes you don’t.”

Word choice, timing, inflection, and even “just a look” are all pivotal in comedy, DeBoer said. In one of his jokes, for example, simply pausing to take a sip of water, rather than maintaining eye contact with the audience, leads to “a much bigger, longer laugh.”

Paul’s been involved with comedy for nearly two decades, since a friend persuaded her to take her chances at an open mic night.

She’d been encouraged before to try stand-up, but her response was always, “I’m not funny like that, I just tell stories to my friends,” she said. Finally, a buddy reminded her that the comedians they were watching at comedy clubs were doing precisely that—telling tales—and “that was an ‘aha moment.’”

She wrote a set in her college comedy writing class, performed it, and “didn’t die,” she said. “I kept going back, and now we’re here.”

Of course, her comedy has evolved as she’s aged. For example, she used to get plenty of mileage out of being single and childless, but now she has an 11-year-old son, and her child has become a main source of comedic gold.

Like Paul, DeBoer’s comedy prizes relatability, he said. “I share experiences from my life, and lots of other people have similar experiences.”

DeBoer is living proof that imagination can take a person a long way, not only with comedy, but also with his twin passion of using technology to build various creations, including robotics fish.

“Anyone can create,” he said. “Anything you can think of, you can build.”

Paul tailors her tales to her audience, she said. For example, for Friday’s set, it’s a good bet she’ll mine humor from her experiences as an adult with braces.

“Knowing your audience is half the battle,” DeBoer echoed. His act can change moderately or significantly depending on the crowd, from corporate events to comedy clubs.

And audience reaction is critical in comedy, DeBoer said. Even after decades in the industry, “I still can’t guarantee a joke will be funny until I hear it with an audience.”

Like Paul, DeBoer has dental jokes ready for Friday, including his response to a $7,000 dental bill—which is in marked contrast to the $14 bill he received from an Iowa hospital for bronchitis treatment, another humorous anecdote.

Though he spends more time with corporate gigs now and less time on the road, Deboer’s enthusiasm for comedy remains undiminished.

“I’ll never get tired of laughing until the day I die,” he said. “That’s what fun is.”

AndersonRT06 / By RYAN ANDERSON 

The kid’s parade, always a popular event at Crazy Days, will be conducted at 10 a.m. Friday.

Austin man found dead in convenience store parking lot

OWATONNA – The Owatonna Police Department is investigating the death of an Austin man whose body was found last week in a vehicle parked at a local business.

Owatonna Police were dispatched just before 7 a.m. July 10 to the Kwik Trip Store on 46th Street NW for a report of a possible overdose. In the convenience store’s parking lot, officers and detectives found the 24-year-old Jesse Frohwein dead in the front seat of a vehicle, according to the Owatonna Police Department.

According to court documents, a detective with the Owatonna Police Department on July 11 interviewed a person of interest who may have been with Frohwein a few hours before his death. The individual was arrested July 10 on a Mower County warrant and was being held in the Mower County Jail when they were interviewed.

The detective was granted a search warrant for the person of interest’s Austin residence, which resulted in the seizure of a small amount of methamphetamine, two amphetamine pills and various drug paraphernalia.

The person of interest is currently being held in Mower County for two misdemeanors, two felonies, and one gross misdemeanor. According to Mower County Jail staff, a hold has been placed on the inmate for third-degree murder charges in Steele County.

Owatonna Police Capt. Eric Rethemeier said that no arrests have yet been made and no charges have been filed in relation to Frohwein’s death at this time. He stated that he does not believe there is a threat to the public. Rethemeier declined to comment further on details of the case and investigation.

The Steele County Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Owatonna Police Department is being assisted by the Steele County Coroner’s Office and the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Rochester to determine the cause of death. This case remains under investigation.