Amy Noble Seitz

Amy Noble Seitz is the founder of Exhibits Development Group, which is set to operate the Chateau Theatre as an exhibition gallery. (Ken Klotzbach/kklotzbach@postbulletin.com

Amy Noble Seitz says the earliest seeds for what will soon be seen in Rochester’s historic Chateau Theatre were planted southwest of the city.

“I was raised by the village of Blooming Prairie,” said the founder of Exhibits Development Group, which is preparing to reopen the Peace Plaza theater on Nov. 23.

While her time in Blooming Prairie wasn’t spent planning to establish a company that would eventually build, manage and distribute exhibits around the globe, she points to early lessons that later fueled that effort.

“My mother and grandmother were Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart was Martha Stewart. That was the special sauce,” she said, noting her mother, Margaret Morrison Noble, owned a beauty salon called Noble Place for 42 years and her grandmother, Marie Morrison, was also an entrepreneur.

The entrepreneurial roots took hold in a third generation, but future endeavors were also nurtured by family trips throughout the country.

“They exposed us to a lot of cultural things and people,” she said of the trips her parents planned.

By the time she graduated from Blooming Prairie High School in 1986, Noble Seitz said she felt ready to meld a variety of influences into her future, But when she arrived at the University of Minnesota it all was a little too big for her.

As a result, she ended up at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, where she studied business administration, marketing and entrepreneurship with plans to find a career in international relations.

While memberships for many arts and cultural venues, from museums to theaters, are often seen as a way to obtain exclusive access, Nixon said the goal for the Chateau is to use memberships as a way of inviting more people in.

A small-town work ethic and experience in hospitality eventually landed her a position with the Minnetonka-based Carlson companies, where she combined interests in interior design and international relations as the company's hotels grew and she started a family.

She had four children, all younger than 6, when she decided to start her own company in Northfield, taking her burgeoning international experiences and putting then in a shop called Agora, which means “marketplace” in Greek.

“It was one of those places where you could buy everything you didn’t need,” she said of the retail outlet for European antiques, furniture, candles, clothing and jewelry.

During that time, she was recruited by Northwest Airlines to serve on the company’s quality-assurance team, which meant flying twice a week to evaluate operations and customer service.

For someone with a fear of flying, the job was challenging, but it also offered an opportunity to take her family anywhere they wanted to go and broadened her insights into the operations of an international company, as well as global cultures.

When her fear of flying got the best of her, Noble Seitz decided to sell her Northfield business, quit the airline position and start working for a San Francisco-based private security firm that served Fortune 500 companies, including some in the Mideast.

The flights weren’t over, but they were scaled back.

It was there that she was introduced to work based on archaeological exhibits, most notably the Golden Treasure of Nimrud exhibit in Northern Iraq. Helping manage that project is when some of the seeds planted in her childhood began to sprout.

“From there, I started developing the business plan for what is now EDG,” she said.

That plan has led the company to develop and oversee exhibits throughout the world and work with museums and others to market their exhibits.

While it has taken her to more international locations, it has also brought Noble Seitz back to find new roots in Southern Minnesota with a plan to reopen the Chateau Theatre to hold a variety of arts, science and cultural exhibits while also helping showcase local talent.

She said she’s often thought of bringing her work to Rochester, even when her company was based in Georgetown for the needed connections of federal institutions.

“I always saw Washington, D.C., and Rochester as very similar in the demographics they serve,” she said, noting both offer connections to international travelers and residents with a desire to experience arts and culture.

With that focus, Noble Seitz said she hopes she can help grow a cultural center in downtown Rochester, approximately 40 miles from where the first seeds were planted.

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