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North Shore entrepreneurs shine

Grandson of one of Great! Lakes Candy Factory's employees, Anthony tries a copper kettle on for size. Shop owner Pam Matson said the little fella has grown some since this photo was taken and now shows promise as a future candy maker. Great! Lakes Candy Factory in Knife River is one of this year's nominees for a Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award.1 / 3
Great! Lakes Candy Factory in Knife River is one of this year's nominees for a Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award.2 / 3
Brewer Ken Thiemann of Borealis Fermentery was recently nominated for a Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award. He makes Belgian-style ales at his unique Lake County Brewery.3 / 3

Whether your go-to treat at the end of a long day is a cold beer or a well- made confection, you’re in luck. Within a few miles of one another, talented crafts-people on the North Shore are at work to make sure you’re well supplied. For their efforts, two of them have just been nominated for the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards — Borealis Fermentery and Great! Lake Candy Factory of Larsmont and Knife River, respectively.

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Borealis’ owner Ken Thiemann started brewing his now popular farmhouse style Belgian ales just two years ago, but not before the former engineer built the structure that would house the operation. He says that it took hundreds of hours and 35,000 pounds of stucco, but the timber-frame straw-bale brewery is likely the only one of its kind in the country.

“I definitely did things the hard way. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” he recounted on his website, but afterwards he was able to embark on the next phase of his journey – brewing, marketing and selling his unique beers. He admits it was a bit of a gamble.

“I’m pretty confident most of the time, but I’m not going to lie,” Thiemann told the Lake County News-Chronicle, “there were some times when I’d look out the window and say, ‘really?!’” These days, however, his gamble shows all the signs of a big payoff. Restaurants and watering holes from the North Shore to the Twin Cities are among his steady customers, there’s a growing list of places that want to serve his brews and he’s thinking about expanding his operation.

“It was never supposed to be this big”, he said. “It’s pretty spooky, but I’m a few years in and people are still buying.” On the North Shore, look for Borealis Fermentery’s ales at the The New Scenic Café, the Ledgerock Grille at Larsmont Cottages and the Mocha Moose Coffeehouse.

Just down the road a few miles, in a little red and white cottage that once housed Mel’s Fish in Knife River, the third and fourth generations of the regionally renowned candy-making Canelake family are gearing up for their eighth season. The Great! Lakes Candy Factory is closed for the winter, but Pamela Matson (generation three) said that her family will open the shop at the end of April with familiar treats—soft caramels made in a copper kettle with “ lots of cream and butter,” English toffee, and much, much more. Visitors will also be able to take a walk down memory lane in the new candy museum, a collection of treasures from Matson’s father’s and grandfather’s early years in the business.

“It shows our family history,” said Matson adding that her sister, artist Patricia Canelake, has made wooden bear cut-outs, some over eight feet tall, to delight customers on the shop’s grounds. ”They’re going to be really cool,” she said. With just weeks before they welcome customers for the busy summer months, Mattson said the Labovitz Award nomination was a nice way to start the season. She, husband Dennis, and son Andy (generation four) were nominated together in the Established Entrepreneur category.

“We were very pleasantly surprised,” she said. “We just feel it was such a nice honor and we’re just pleased to have been nominated.”

The Great! Lake Candy Factory will open April 26. There are treats to satisfy the sweet tooth of almost anyone. Shop hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.