The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 30, 2014

Downtown North Mankato business fluctuating

2 restaurants close; new apartments rented

By Tim Krohn
The Mankato Free Press

---- — NORTH MANKATO — Las Fronteras Mexican Grill & Cantina, the third Mexican-style restaurant at 503 Belgrade Ave. in recent years, has closed.

The restaurant opened in early 2012.

The building has long been the site of restaurants and bars. It started in the 1960s and ‘70s as the Quarterback Club, part of a chain of Minnesota clubs owned by a group of Minnesota Vikings players and coaches, including Mick Tingelhoff, Bill Brown and Norm Van Brocklin.

The building’s domed roof was shaped like half of a football.

According to a newspaper story at the time, the North Mankato club was grossing $10,000 a month in 1967, the equivalent of $70,000 today.

It later hosted family restaurants, including a Bridgeman’s.

In 2002, Bonito Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant opened. A few years ago it closed and was followed by Border’s Tex Mex Grill & Cantina, which preceded Las Fronteras.

The Las Fronteras closing follows the recent closing of the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant. The restaurant, located off Commerce Drive in upper North Mankato, was in operation for about a year.

The Las Fronteras closure comes as city leaders have worked to revitalize the Belgrade Avenue business district — an effort that’s had fits and starts.

The owner of Mutch Hardware retired and closed the longtime business in late in 2012. Last year, it appeared the building would be reused by a Lake Crystal man who was going to open an e-cigarette store. But the City Council put temporary restrictions on such businesses and the business never opened.

The Mutch building has been purchased and the owner received a low-interest Port Authority loan to renovate it and is looking for tenants to lease it.

Down from the former hardware store, the former Skillings & Associates building has been vacant for some time.

But there have been several success stories on the business strip as well.

Brunton Architects built a new building on a vacant lot next to the Like Nu dry cleaners and Brunton recently expanded its space into the corner building — formerly a Laundromat — which most recently housed Southern Minnesota Surgical.

Next to the Circle Inn, a relatively new Expressway convenience store has been operating at the site of a former gas station.

And the biggest recent downtown development — a renovation and two-story addition of the former Dollar Store (previously Ray’s Market) — also is complete. One office tenant is in the ground floor and some renters are in the upper apartments. Brunton Architects, which did the project, says it is working with other potential businesses for the commercial space and seeking renters for the rest of the apartments.