What began as a means to meet regulations for managing a food cart resulted in Chameleon Cafe opening a brick-and-mortar location in addition to their Friday through Sunday space at Gull Dam Brewing in Nisswa.
"Basically we bought a food cart to operate there and we needed a commissary, which is a kitchen to do dishes, prep work and inventory in," owner Craig Venske said. "We signed a lease for the building here next to BIR (Brainerd International Raceway) on May 5 of last year and operated our food cart out of it since that time. I've got everything from fine dining to bar food experience. I just tried to find a little niche of my own with healthy food - fresh, made from scratch. It's still simple - mostly sandwiches and tacos and finger food; stuff that pairs well with beer and wine."
A year to the day of the lease signing, Venske opened the doors of that commissary as a full dining establishment. Venske said there was so much equipment left at the location that it didn't take much additional work.
The location displays arts and crafts from local vendors and serves what Venske calls upscale bar food.
"I'd like to say we have gastropub style cooking and a coffee shop style atmosphere," Venske said. "It's kind of a unique feel, what is called fast casual. You order at the counter and there is no full table service. Everything is designed to go really fast. Everything is fresh and seasonal. It's a lot of 'prep and plate,' so you aren't waiting 12 minutes for a burger to cook."
Most of the items found on the food truck in the past will be available at the location near BIR, in addition to an expanded menu.
Venske has approximately 20 years of restaurant experience, but Chameleon Cafe is the first restaurant he has owned. The Chameleon Cafe food cart started operation in June 2016, mostly at Gull Dam Brewing.
Minnesota Surf Co. rebrands, moves, grows
Jo and Bill's Gifts becomes Cranky Hank's Treasures
After Bill Svendsen from Jo and Bill's Gifts in Nisswa died, Jo approached Evan Lawrence of Minnesota Surf Company next door about a possible expansion opportunity, which resulted in changes for the two Nisswa businesses.
Lawrence started by fully remodeling the space and then moving Minnesota Surf Company into the former Jo and Bill's Gifts building because it offered almost double the space. He then gave the company a new name: 46° North Adventure Company, which is a reference to the location of Minnesota according to global coordinates.
Lawrence also kept the Minnesota Surf Company name, but it is below the new sign. The new location has a larger selection of bikes and fishing kayaks and more space to browse.
"I just thought it would be easier for people to relate to than 'surf'," Lawrence said.
Lawrence kept his old storefront as well and moved the items from Jo and Bill's Gifts there, renaming the store Cranky Hank's Treasures.
The change was official April 15.