Coffee, pizza enterprises get new owners
New year brings new faces to popular Cloquet eateries
January 10, 2020
Bearaboo Coffee opened New Year's Day with brand new owners, after Natalie and Chris Swanson purchased Cloquet's only combination coffee shop and car wash from Karen Williams, who owned both businesses with her late husband, Bob.
It was a family-centered business for Karen and Bob, and the Swansons plan to continue that tradition. Their two high-school-aged kids - senior Caleb and junior Emma - are already trained in as baristas, while eighth grader Grace is nearly trained in. Their fifth grader, Gavin, claims he'll be in charge of electronics, Natalie said in a Facebook post on New Year's Day.
"We will work hard to caffeinate this community and serve with joy and good humor," Swanson posted. "Come visit us and see what's brewing."
Both Natalie and Chris, a social studies and government teacher at Cloquet High School, have lots of new ideas for the coffee shop and eatery - like adding a trivia night or comedy - but they also want to keep the many successful things about the well-established business.
"Our regulars are really important to us, so we don't want to change too much," said Natalie.
Customers will still find muffins, scones, cheesecake and other desserts along with sandwiches, paninis, wraps baked potatoes, soups, salads and more plus breakfast sandwiches in the morning. The smoothies, tea, chai tea and coffee drinks aren't going anywhere.
"People are crazy about our chai," said barista Rachel Willie.
"Can't wait to come up for a chai tea latte!" Connie Wick posted after hearing the news.
The chicken salad recipe is the same, promised Willie, adding that it's one of their most popular lunches.
Natalie has been managing the place and learning the ropes from Williams over the past 10 months, and she expressed her thanks to the former owner for teaching them so much and trusting them to take over the business.
Bearaboo is open most days from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Follow them on
Southgate mixes it up
New Southgate Family Pizzeria owners Kate Laine, Peter Olson and Sandra Lee Olson are also keeping it in the family, as Pete's mom, Sandra Lee, is part owner with her son and Kate.
They took over the longtime Cloquet restaurant on July 1, excited to embrace the challenge of running the pizzeria, located next to Anytime Fitness in the Premiere Theatres mall at 918 Highway 33 South in Cloquet.
Pete's face is everywhere, smiling out of the center of a new logo on staff T-shirts, pizza boxes, a clock, menus and even wearing a Vikings helmet on a sticker that says "Pete-zzaa."
"We kept the name but kind of rebranded it with Peter's face," said Kate with a smile.
Each owner has his or her niche, they said in an interview Friday.
"I'm the finance person, while Kate runs all the kids in the back and front (kitchen and serving) and Pete is in charge of alcohol, research and development and extended sales," said Sandra. "It seems to work."
They have expanded both the food and drink menu, adding some specialty pizzas and are expanding the alcohol selection to beer and wine on tap and by the bottle. The endless pizza and salad bar lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays attracts a good crowd and they aren't afraid to stay open late to serve local sports teams on their way home from a game.
They've also started a new AuSM Game Night in partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota every Wednesday, which has been well received. Staff come from Northern Lights Co-op and Academy, and kids play games and eat pizza and popcorn while they earn ice cream and other prizes by socializing with others. The activity offers kids a low-stress way to "promote learning and growth while celebrating neurodiversity," according to the http://www.ausm.org.
"They don't want to stop," said Sandra, who retired from a 42-year teaching career that included teaching special education. They also employ two students enrolled in the special education program to work at the pizzeria an hour a day. Kate also worked with special education students before coming to Southgate, so it's a natural fit for both of them and very rewarding, they said.
All three said they enjoy owning a business that's been in town nearly 40 years (although in different locations), noting that they've met some of the previous owners, still have the original recipes and have been delighted when customers thank them for "bringing Southgate back."
And for those who want something new? Pete's working on a new pizza made with his buddy's delicious Lake Superior Hot Mustard sauce, but right now the rest of the ingredients are still top secret.
Check out the Southgate Family "Pete-zeria" Facebook page or stop in to try one of their specialty pizzas any day of the week.