'Quite a following' can't keep Rochester gift shop open

After two years in the shadow of Saint Marys Hospital, the owner of a small Rochester gift shop is sadly preparing to close her doors.

Sherrie Martin-Opsahlplans to close her store, Edna & Hazel's, at the end of March.

While the drag of a difficult economy didn't help, it was the personal tragedy of her husband dying unexpectedly that spurred her to close, she says.

"The customers have been wonderful. I've quite a following," says Martin-Opsahl.

She opened the gift shop in the Blondell Crown Square Motel and Mallin 2009. Martin-Opsahl had worked at nearby Carla's Giftsfor many years and she had decided to try her hand at running her own store.


Being across the street from Saint Marys Hospital, the shop attracts many hospital visitors as well as employees.

Of her varied offerings, Martin-Opsahl, a proud Green Bay Packers backer, says some of the most popular items include her line of hard-to-find NFL apparel.

A line of specialty drink mixes with a sassy (and unprintable) brand name also sell well.

"They fly off the shelves," she says.

Fans of the store now have about a month and a half left to shop before it is closes.

Branding time?

The owner of a prominent downtown Rochester hotel hopes to give up his independence soon.

At the end of December, the seven-story, 170-room hotel dropped the Holiday Inn Expressname brand and became independent. It was re-named Rochester City Centre Hotelto reflect that.


The change was designed to buy time as the owner, Mike Bhatka, worked out what path to take. As part of a brand design change, Holiday Inn was requiring expensive remodeling to remain part of its chain.

Since going independent, Bhatka has been talking to various hotel groups about joining their brands.

"We hope to get something going soon," he said this week. "We need to have a brand."

On another front, Bhatka also said he has made what he describes as his final labor contract proposal to UNITE Here Local 21union, which represents the hotel's workers.

The previous contract expired at the end of August.

UNITE Here did not respond to messages about the contract and whether the workers have accepted or rejected Bhatka's offer.

When Bhatka and CMPJ Enterprises bought the hotel in 2006 from Sunstone Hotel Investors, he clashed with the union over the lay off of a number of employees.The National Labor Relations Board ruled that the 19 workers were unjustly fired and should have their jobs reinstated.

Biz buzz


Under the radar in Racine, a local woman is heating up plans for a new bar and grill in the recently closed travel plaza.

Briana Bahlhopes to create a new night spot for Racine in the former Racine Travel Plazaalong U.S. 63 South.

Bahl is keeping the name of her new project under wraps for now as she works out details.

What kind of place is hoping to create?

Unfortunately, that is closely connected to the name, so it is also under the "Need-to-Know Only" category for now.

I'll keep checking in with Bahl as she maps out the direction for this new Racine roadhouse.

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