Jerky maker Jack Link's Protein Snacks is opening a new office and store later this year in downtown Minneapolis at Mayo Clinic Square, formerly called Block E, a move that will double its local employee count.
The Minong, Wis.-based company planned to tell its employees Monday morning it is moving its Twin Cities office from the Warehouse District to the recently renovated space on Hennepin Avenue and 6th Street.
The move is more than an office relocation. Jack Link's is attempting to raise its visibility by creating a Times Square-like experience with retail space, a test kitchen lab and plans to open an adjacent bar and restaurant with a venture partner. The lease for the 78,000-square-foot site was signed Friday.
"Staying directly connected with people who buy our products is key to fueling our passion and will ensure that even as we grow, we don't become corporate stiffs," Troy Link, the company's president and CEO, said in a statement.
The deal took time to come together because of a city requirement for the amount of street-level activity, as well as the challenging size and shape of the space. The space wraps around the Hennepin Avenue frontside of Mayo Clinic Square, with a presence on 7th and 6th streets. City officials, including the council members who represent downtown, Lisa Goodman and Jacob Frey, wanted to see it carved up into smaller storefronts.
"My big goal was to break up the space, activate the street level and retain jobs," Frey said.
To do so, all of the offices are pushed to the interior and skirted by three separate exterior-touching spaces. Customers will be able to enter the quirky and sensory-stimulating storefront — which will includes games, activities and a jerky sample room with season-your-own meat snacks — at the Hennepin and 6th Street corner. An undisclosed bar and restaurant — likely run by another entity — will face 6th Street. And a small window along 7th Street will allow those passing by to peek into an innovation lab where employees will work on new products.
Goodman said in a statement: "It's going to be a fun and unique experience for the downtown community and, of course, jerky lovers."
Two weeks ago, Jack Link's asked the city to support its application for an $850,000 forgivable loan with the Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF), run and funded by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The loan application says it will be used for the Mayo Clinic Square expansion that will increase Jack Link's downtown employee count from 150 to 300 people, the company said.
Jack Link's received an MIF loan in 2014 for the build-out of its current offices and is on track to meet the forgiveness requirements for that loan by next month.
Mayo Clinic Square, when it was called Block E, was notorious for its inability to attract and maintain tenants. Camelot LLC, the current landlord that renovated the building last year, said Jack Link's long-term lease puts the building near full occupancy. The landlord has two signed letters of intent for the only remaining space.
After looking at about 50 buildings, Jack Link's landed on Mayo Clinic Square because of its proximity to sports and entertainment, said Phillip Jaffe, chief executive of Provident Real Estate Ventures, manager of Camelot's assets. Target Center is across the street and Target Field is a block away.
"And our building is unique: Because we are in the billboard district we are able to give them signage on their building, which is really important to what they are trying to do strategically," Jaffe said. "The city needs to celebrate this because the block has been punished and tainted for so long."