By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Tom and Amanda Doerr hope everyone who has avoided their bar in the past will stop in to the reopened, renamed Chopps and see what it looks like now.
The bad rap against the bar formerly known as Chopper’s was, admits Tom, partly of his own making.
“We had that stigma of being a biker bar. We were never trying to be a biker bar, it was just sort of a gimmick, but it bit us in the butt.”
After closing for a month and doing a top-to-bottom renovation, the couple reopened Chopps Friday night. “Everything’s different, a new look, new theme. We want to broaden our customer base,” Tom said.
The building, at 521 South Front St., has a long history as a bar. It operated as the Square Deal for decades, opening in the early 1950s.
Prior to that it was home to Hugo W. Lichtenberg Beverages.
In the ’90s, John Pluto bought the business from the Lyons family and changed the name to Pluto’s.
Doerr and two partners bought it in 2001 and changed the name to Chopper’s.
Doerr bought out his partners recently and decided to start fresh. “I’ve grown a lot since I bought it. I’ve added some kids and got older,” said the 39-year-old. The couple has three children.
They had hoped to go back to the Square Deal name, but Lyons family members weren’t on board with the idea, Tom said. “The name was available with the secretary of state and everything, but my moral compass told me I shouldn’t do it if the family wasn’t comfortable with it.”
Amanda said they worked with the Regional Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation in Mankato as they redesigned their bar and business model.
“The RCEF was great. They really were helpful in getting us more focused, on seeing things from a different perspective,” Amanda said.
For now, Chopps will have very limited food — frozen pizza and popcorn — but they plan to add more food offerings. While bars that received liquor licenses in the past decade need to have at least 60 percent of their sales from food, older liquor-license holders aren’t under those requirements.
Flour Power Bakers’ Cafe
The downtown Mankato Place mall again has a cafe — this one with homemade soups, sandwiches, salads and made-from-scratch baked goods.
Flour Power Bakers’ Cafe opened in the former Java Lava space, which closed in November.
Owner Kirsten Markiewicz is a veteran baker, having worked for years at the Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis and Swedish Bakery in Chicago. The St. Peter native also has worked at the St. Peter Food Co-op and has sold her baked goods at the Mankato Farmers’ Market in recent years. And both of her siblings have culinary degrees.
“This was something I always wanted to do and I took the plunge.”
She offers made-from-scratch soups, sandwiches, salads, vegan and vegetarian dishes and bread, scones and other baked goods.
“We’re truly making bread from scratch. All of our sandwiches have bread from scratch.”
The cafe also does boxed lunches for business meetings and makes wedding and birthday cakes to order.
The cafe is open 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.
Tim Krohn is a Free Press staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 344-6383.