GRANITE FALLS, Minn.— A member-owned public house serving craft beer is coming to Granite Falls, historically home to Congressman Andrew Volstead who crafted both the National Prohibition Act and legislation championing cooperatives. With help from Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) business finance program, Bluenose Gopher Public House plans to open its taps this summer in a restored brick building on the scenic Minnesota River.
Originally envisioned as a cooperative brewing and serving its own beer, prohibitive costs inspired the Bluenose Gopher board of directors to think differently about the project. Members unanimously supported a move to creating a public house serving Minnesota-made beer and wine.
More than 220 people have signed up to be member-owners of the new venture, with memberships still being offered. Members are mainly Minnesota residents from the surrounding area, but include people as far away as Seattle.
Sarina Otaibi dreamed up the idea of a cooperative brewery back in 2013 with fellow founding Bluenose Gopher board members Andrew Hodny and Mary Gillespie. Through the ups and downs of the planning process, Otaibi has maintained her passion for bringing people together in new ways.
“It’s not just about us being a drinking establishment. It’s also a community space where people can gather, can talk about and implement ideas,” Otaibi said. “We really want to see this project succeed because we want to use member ownership as a model that can be replicated by small communities struggling to keep a local meeting place for people.”
Rehab work on the Main Street building that will house Bluenose Gopher is expected to last into May, with a grand opening planned for June. Financing from SWIF is helping launch this creative community asset, along with encouragement from Scott Marquardt, SWIF Vice President.
“Scott approached us and asked, ‘What can we do to help make this a reality?’ Without that, I don’t know if we’d be here. That played a huge role in making this happen,” Otaibi said.
Loan programs have always been a key function of SWIF in its support of communities and businesses throughout southwest Minnesota. The original program offered large loans for businesses. In 2001, SWIF’s Microenterprise Loan Program was added to support small business owners and entrepreneurs by providing market-rate loans. SWIF partners with banks and credit unions, economic development organizations, nonprofit lenders and private investors to offer creative financing.
“We look forward to this wonderful business opening, and its significant regional impact focusing on Minnesota wine, Minnesota beer, community conversations, and all of the things that make southwest Minnesota wonderful,” Marquardt said.
Southwest Initiative Foundation is an independent community foundation supported by individuals, families, businesses, and organizations. Its mission is connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities. Since its founding in 1986, SWIF has contributed more than $75 million through its grant and loan programs. Its business finance programs have helped start or expand more than 700 businesses, which have created or retained more than 8,600 jobs. SWIF has also established 26 community affiliates and more than 100 school, donor-advised and other funds, as well as 16 Early Childhood Initiative coalitions to support young children. SWIF has received 1,730 acres of farmland through our Keep It Growing℠ farmland giving program. In 2016, SWIF launched the Grow Our Own Initiative to align its work and ensure all southwest Minnesota kids have the best start to life. Southwest Initiative Foundation is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To learn more, visit www.swifoundation.org.
# # #