Red Wing Restaurant challenge generates opportunities

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The grand prize winner of the Red Wing Restaurant Challenge was a proposal made by Danielle and John Flicek, of Rochester, who plan to reopen the Staghead this fall. The couple has a strong background in the restaurant business; John is presently a chef at Zzest in Rochester.

RED WING — A unique incentive program is revving Red Wing's economic engine.

The Red Wing Restaurant Challenge announced two winners on Thursday, but Jill Prahl, of Red Wing Downtown Main Street, said Monday that the initiativealso could help land up to four additional downtown businesses. Prahl considers that a major coup for a program that offered $20,000 in start-up cash and $20,000 in in-kind support.

"Not only did we get a lot of restaurant action, but we got retail action, which is just what our community needs right now," Prahl said.

The grand prize winner was a proposal made by Rochester's Danielle and John Flicek, who plan to reopen the Staghead with a "healthy, locally sourced menu." The couple has a strong background in the restaurant business, including John's 16 years as a chef in the area — most recently at ZZest in Rochester.

The final phase of the challenge was a "Shark Tank" TV show kind of setting, where the four finalists pitched their proposals before a panel of five judges. The proposals were so strong that the panel required an extra 24 hours to decide the winners, Prahl said. However, the Flicek's three-course meal prepared in 15 minutes under the judges' watchful eyes proved to be the trump card.


"We knew we would stand out because no one else was going to do that," Danielle said. "They seemed pretty impressed, honestly, but it was nerve-wracking. They didn't say too much, but you could tell on their faces that they loved it."

The Fliceks, who plan to move to Red Wing, will receive the majority of the financial incentive, though Prahl declined to say exactly how much. They expect to open the restaurant this fall and employ about 12 people to start.

"We've been talking the last four years about opening a restaurant somewhere in a smaller town," Danielle said. "My husband grew up along the Mississippi River in Wabasha, and we wanted to go back to our roots. This is the perfect place for us, with the brick walls, tin ceiling and wood floor. It was just screaming for this opportunity."

The second-place winner is Phillip White, a Red Wing native and member of the Prairie Island Indian Community. He and his wife plan to operate a restaurant called Phil's Spot at a location to-be-determined. It will emphasize healthy farm-to-table concepts, according to Prahl's news release.

White, who was not available for comment, is a 2009 graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. It's unclear when his restaurant would open, but he will receive whatever incentive funding was not allocated to the Fliceks.

Two restaurant proposals rejected by the panel of judges have asked to remain confidential, but Prahl said one still plans to move forward and the other is considering doing the same.

Prahl credited the restaurant challenge with helping to lure a new dog boutique and groomer business, which recently signed its lease, and said another retail business — which she declined to identify — expects to sign its lease on Aug. 15.

"This is huge," said Lisa Bayley, Red Wing city council president. "We have a strong business community in the city as a whole … but in the last couple of years our restaurant situation has really suffered. Having some new faces in the restaurant scene will be a big boost to our economy and the general feel and excitement of downtown."


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Ron Knudsen

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