Mike’s cousin is opening an outfitting business and retail store on the Mississippi River in Clearwater, Minnesota near St. Cloud. We’re excited for his new business venture and hope those of you in Central Minnesota are too. It’s called Clear Waters Outfitting Company so be sure to put visiting it on your bucket list for this summer.
Old Landmark Could Become a New Landmark By Ken Francis Staff Writer
More recent residents are probably more familiar with the last business that occupied the building, Treeform Collections – a one-man furniture-making operation by Scott Pesola.
Now, Dan Meer is hoping people will someday remember the site as the home of Clear Waters Outfitting Company, a place where people can take canoe and kayak trips along the Mississippi River.
Meer also intends to sell new and used canoes, kayaks, canoe trailers, outdoor equipment and accessories. There will be souvenirs, bait & tackle and convenience store food items.
After months of dealing with lenders, property owners, engineers, architects and city officials, Meer finally got his building permit two weeks ago. Work began on the site soon after.
He is keeping the historic 2,576 sq. ft. building and adding a 3,496 sq. ft. structure for canoe and kayak storage and repair.
“It’s more challenging than I thought,” Meer said during the interior demolition of the old creamery. “We’re getting into the walls now and we’re finding some of the structure is rotten. The sill plates have to be replaced. A lot of the ceiling joists and roof rafters have to be rebuilt.”
Finding hidden problems wasn’t totally unexpected, says Meer. It’s not the first time he has worked on restoring an old building.
“This is the third building I’ve renovated. I did one old home in St. Cloud and one in Albany,” he says. “Both were over 100 years old.”
The inside of the old creamery will be completely gutted and replaced with new electric, plumbing, insulation and interior construction walls. But Meer, who appreciates the history of the building, wants to keep the exterior intact.
“We’re going to restore the chimney and cupolas on the roof so the structure will look like it does now. So it will always be recognizable as the creamery,” he says. “And I found some cupolas that are similar. We’ll put them on the new shed to try to tie them together.”
Meer intends to use some of the historic interior components, like the old cooler doors, as part of the decor. And he is interested in any artifacts or historic photographs he can use to decorate the building when it’s done.
“If people have any historical things – pictures, things I can frame and put on the wall,” he says, “I’d like to see this be almost a historical society or waterfront museum. The history of the creamery; history of Clearwater; history of the Mississippi River. I think that would be a neat attraction for people to see.”
Visitors to the old building would be able to glance at some of the local history, purchase outdoor gear or pick up a convenience item before checking in for a trip and renting a canoe or kayak.
Meer says he looked at different parts of the river before finding the location in downtown Clearwater.
“The visibility from Hwy. 24 is nice. It’s a little tough getting down here, coming through a residential area, but that’s where the river is,” he says. “But I’ve talked with a lot of the neighbors and they seem very receptive.”
The proximity to St. Cloud was one factor. As was the possibility of access points along the river.
“We looked for what would be the best criteria for paddle trips,” Meer says. “We’ll be able to run people upriver and they can canoe down and end up here.”
There is already an access near St. Cloud State. Meer says he heard Sherburne County will be adding another access about halfway between his site and St. Cloud. That will give canoers or kayakers a choice between a two-mile or a four-mile trip downriver. He is also talking with landowners upriver and downriver, looking for other possible access sites.
Although this is his first time owning a canoe business, Meer says he knows a lot about what it takes to make it work.
“It’s a new venture, but we also have some affiliates who have an outfitting company in the boundary waters. We have a lot of expertise through working up there and doing outfitting trips,” he says. “My wife and I loved the outdoors our whole life. We’ve done countless boundary water trips.”
The Mississippi River might not be as pristine and isolated as the boundary waters area, but Meer believes people will enjoy the trip just as much.
“This section is designated as wild and scenic, so you can paddle this stretch of the river and feel like you’re getting away from everything,” he says.
There are also campsites in the area, so people can take a vacation or, “daycation” close to home at less expense than traveling up north or cross-country.
If everything goes as planned, Meer says he expects to be open in May.