The journey that led to The Loop opening its doors in downtown Rochester on Wednesday began with a friendship among four high school athletes. And the journey really took off when one of them refused to board a plane.
Four men who graduated from John Marshall High School in 1997 are the owners and driving forces behind Rochester's newest restaurant and bar.
This is the third upscale restaurant Ryan Brevig, Todd Jensen, Derek Link, and Josh Paulsen have opened in the last six years.
On the street level of the 318 Commons complex on First Avenue, The Loop features a full menu, large booths and tables and a long, wavy white bar.
In warm weather, windowed garage doors built into the front wall can be opened to allow customers and staff to easily use the patio area.
The four friends, all 33, combined their talents to create the clean urban look, unique menu and array of signature drinks. The Loop's staff numbers 36.
"We all appreciate what each brings to the table," says Jensen of how they work together.
The four became friends while playing basketball and hockey at John Marshall, a time when they first dabbled in restaurant work.
Paulsen, the executive chef in the group, started his first kitchen job at Perkins when he was 15. At 17, Brevig worked as a host at Applebee's in Apache Mall.
Link has worked at bars since he was 18. He moved up the ladder at the Twin Cities' Hard Rock Café until he became the bar manager. Jensen, trained in public relations, worked in marketing.
When Brevig and Jensen lived near each other in the blossoming North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis, they saw a need for a place the young people crowding the new condos and apartments could gather for a drink and a meal.
In their 20s, they shared dreams of opening a bar or restaurant. But it really started to take shape after one of them quit his job.
Brevig was working for a consulting firm and had been boarding a plane every Monday morning for three years. The gig landed him in a cubicle in Texas from Monday until he flew back into Minneapolis on Thursday night.
Until the day he decided he couldn't do it anymore.
"I went through security. I had my boarding pass. I had flown so much, I knew the gate agent," remembers Brevig. "I walked up to her and said, "'I will not be flying today, Louise.'"
Soon after telling Louise and quitting his job, he called Jensen to ask if he was still interested in opening a bar.
"I said 'sure,'" says Jensen. "Then I realized how serious he was and I decided I was up for trying it."
The pair recruited Link from Hard Rock and Paulsen, who had just returned to Minnesota following a cooking gig in Hawaii.
They found a historic brick building in Minneapolis. In December 2006, they opened the doors of The Loop and the crowds started coming.
Seven months later, they got chance to open a second place when Old Chicago closed, making another historic building available. Target Field was slated to open nearby in two years.
"It was a risk, but it was a calculated risk," says Brevig.
The 508 Bar and Restaurant opened on Valentine's Day in 2008. It stayed afloat for two tough years and started sailing when the Twins started playing at Target Field.
Now the four friends have come full circle to bring The Loop to downtown Rochester, which is undergoing a revitalization similar to what they see happen in the North Loop and the Target Field neighborhoods.
"Rochester has done a phenomenal job with energizing downtown, particularly with events like Thursdays on First," says Brevig. "When I was a kid, the only time I came downtown was when I was sick."