Block North Brew Pub (BNBP) in Aitkin expanded its operation into an adjacent building that was a former meat locker, vacant for three years and nearing tax forfeiture.
BNBP converted it into Block North Locker Room, a pizzeria with recreation games and outside three-season seating. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $19,700 Commercial Redevelopment grant to the city of Aitkin which helped pay for interior and roof demolition of the vacated building. Total project investment was $240,300.
The vacant building’s interior was in disrepair. The electricity and water were disconnected, interior ceilings and insulation had collapsed, and most interior surfaces were covered in mold caused by moisture from the shutdown of the meat freezers. In contrast, the building’s brick exterior was solid with a watertight roof.
“The adjacent structure created a unique opportunity for us to redevelop it and expand our business,” said Peter Lowe, BNBP owner. “The Block North Locker Room has attracted a different and younger clientele than the Brew Pub. The Locker Room has brick oven pizzas, salads, starters, craft beers from our pub, an Italian inspired drink menu, and it is starting to have live music.”
Lowe co-owns and operates both Block North facilities with Dake Olson and Rich Courtemanche. Lowe was raised in Aitkin and is the BNBP chef. He left the area after high school and enjoyed a successful career as a professional caterer and chef on movie sets and other locations across America and abroad. He now prepares original Block North cuisines including a variety of steaks, shrimp and grits and smoked duck. View the full Brew Pub and Locker Room menus.
Courtemache and Olson work together to develop ale originals such as For My Horses, Fog on the Bog, Lazy Boy, Gobbler Red and Screaming Goat. Courtemanche is the Brew Master. When Olson isn’t helping to make beer, he is the mayor of McGregor
The three purchased the original 4,500-square-foot facility in 2018. It was formerly a furniture store and offered a wide-open space which was well-suited for a brew pub and restaurant. They renovated the building, opened it as Block North Brew Pub in 2019 and provided a unique family fine dining experience with fine brews. The facility increased traffic to Aitkin’s downtown area and created 45 part and full-time jobs. Adding the Locker Room increased the number of jobs to 53.
“The two Block North venues have significantly helped the revitalization of our downtown area,” said Aitkin City Clerk Jen Thompson. “The entire project dating back to 2019 has created jobs, brought two vacant buildings back into use, generated financial investment and tax revenue for Aitkin, and ultimately improved the quality of life options for families and young adults.”