Downtown Duluth welcomes 9 businesses with Pop-Up CoLab – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The Greater Downtown Council’s Pop-Up CoLab has returned, in partnership with the Duluth 1200 Fund, to provide nine entrepreneurs an opportunity to test out their businesses in a shared storefront.

The intent of this project is to offer flexibility to encourage active and lively storefronts where entrepreneurs can test out a retail environment. The CoLab environment is being offered to provide additional synergy for small businesses that may not have enough inventory to fill an entire storefront.

“This is a great way to further activate vacant space in our downtown, while also providing local entrepreneurs a new opportunity,” said Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council.

Many of the businesses gave a sneak peak of their merchandise during Sidewalk Days last week. Now, they are focusing efforts on preparing their shared space inside the vacant storefronts at 313 and 317 W. Superior St. The Pop-Up CoLab will hold a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on the 300 block of West Superior Street at noon Aug. 2.

The property owner is providing the space for free through mid-October. The Duluth 1200 Fund is also providing $1,500 grants to each participant to assist with costs related to utilities, marketing and inventory.

Building exterior photos

Pop-Up CoLab will hold a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on the 300 block of West Superior Street at noon Aug. 2.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“We are committed to helping small businesses grow here in Duluth,” said Deb Otto, president of the 1200 Fund. “This partnership allows them a chance to test out the market, plus it provides added financial incentive and business advice.”

Businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, people of color, women and veterans were given preference during the participant selection process for the program. Five of the participants are a part of the Family Freedom Center’s Freedom Youth Start-Up program, and continued support is provided to these participants through the Family Freedom Center and Family Rise Together.

The Pop-Up CoLab participants include:

  • Andrea’s Art: Custom jewelry
  • Auntie’s Stand: Cosmetics
  • Aonehc LLC: Jewelry, soaps, lotions
  • Cheesecake & Co: Cheesecake and other food offerings
  • Kings Clothing: Urban apparel
  • MBK Clothing: Urban apparel and accessories
  • Rose from the Rough: Soaps, candles and novelty gifts
  • Scarlet Blu Cosmetics: Cosmetics
  • TheFreshKid: Custom shoes and apparel

After participating in farmers markets and vendor events, Cheesecake & Co. owners Ashley and Juann Woodward are grateful and humbled by the opportunity to open their own storefront as part of the Pop-Up CoLab.

“I like this opportunity because it will give us a feel for how it will be to run a business every day,” Ashley said.

The couple operates from their home kitchen to create a variety of organic, homemade individual-serving cheesecake flavors, including vegan options like Key lime and strawberry. This fall, Ashley is looking forward to trying out seasonal flavors like pumpkin, mint, cider, sweet potato, cinnamon and spice, and apple pie.


Cheesecake & Co. owners Juann and Ashley Woodward, of Duluth, manage their stand at the Boreal House on June 8, 2021. The idea for the new business came during Ashley’s pregnancy with their fifth child, Juann Jr.

Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Cheesecake & Co. offers event catering, and is also available at Jamrock Cultural Restaurant in Superior. The desserts are served in 4-ounce, 8-ounce and 16-ounce jars with discounts on bulk orders. Customers have the option to pick up or have their orders delivered.

Depending on how the CoLab experience goes, Ashley said Cheesecake & Co. may stick with a storefront or start up a food trailer. Ashley anticipates eventually needing an industrial-sized kitchen.

Ashley chalks her culinary experience up to trial-and-error. She first learned to bake from her great-grandfather, Samuel Thompson, a World War II Navy veteran and pastry chef who served desserts on a submarine. Her great-grandparents raised her in Georgia.

“I get a nice, warm feeling in my heart to think back to my childhood. That is something that will always stick with me,” Ashley said. “Everything I bake is made with love. I want our customers to have that same family feel when they do business with us.”

Fifteen years ago, Ashley moved to Minnesota to live with her mother. She and Juann and their children left Minneapolis five years ago to come to Duluth’s Harbor Rescue Mission, a gospel-based shelter for those in need. Someday, she hopes to give back to the community by bringing Cheesecake & Co. samples to the children at the shelters, or to the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“I am humble and teach my children to be grateful. I am open to opportunities coming my way because I remember what it was like,” Ashley said of her personal experience with homelessness. “It was overwhelming and depressing. I would like to help take the stress off the mothers and make them feel good.”

What began as a self-taught hobby during quarantine not only turned into a business opportunity, but a second chance at life for Rose from the Rough owner Kameron Peak. Rose From the Rough specializes in homemade soaps, candles and novelty gifts, with a focus on holistic healing using essential oils.

Building exterior photos

The Pop-Up CoLab property owner is providing the space for free through mid-October.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Peak originally started selling her products on Etsy and at vendor events. By operating from the Pop-Up CoLab storefront, she said customers will be able to locate her easily and allow her to shift focus to sales instead of shipping and researching events.

“I am ecstatic about it,” Peak said. “It is surreal. These are things I’ve been hoping and working for. I’ve always wanted something to call my own in a city that I was transplanted to from Indiana at age 6. I used to be a cleaner at Security Jewelers . Now I’ll be opening a store doors down. It’s a humbling opportunity, and a mind-blowing experience.”

While focusing on her sobriety, Peak has connected with other community members with similar experiences. One commonality she noticed among those with housing insecurities was that they often did not have access to personal hygiene items like soap. In the 35-year-old’s journey towards recovery, Peak hopes to provide soap to the soap-less, hope to the hopeless and be a light in the dark. A percentage of Rose from the Rough sales goes towards helping those with housing insecurities, she said.

“Everyone should be able to cleanse themselves. It’s an opportunity to heal the community while healing myself. It’s a privilege and an honor to be a light in darkness,” Peak added.

The business name, Rose from the Rough, stems from Peak’s upbringing: to rise up from poverty, addiction and oppression. Her mother was an advocate for battered women, and shared a passion for helping women and youth in recovery, with housing insecurities or who are suffering abuse.

“I hope my story is able to touch and inspire those fighting for sobriety,” Peak said. “I hope to save other children and teenagers from addiction. I want to empower people struggling with addiction and be a face of hope. You can overcome it, and there is a community of sobriety that will welcome and embrace you with open arms.”

The opportunity to participate in the CoLab is not something that will be taken lightly, Peak said, adding that she will “hit the ground running.” She encourages everyone to support all the participants.

“They are all deserving of it. There are stories behind each one of these businesses,” Peak said.


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