Inside Track: Target over the old Barrel

  • July 6, 2008 - 11:08 PM

Target Commercial Interiors quietly opened its doors Tuesday in downtown Minneapolis, with much of the foot traffic coming from employees at Target headquarters across the street and curious downtown workers who came to see what wonders might lie behind the once-covered windows.

With interior design services plus an array of modern and traditional desks, chairs, lights, artwork and floor coverings, the 11,000-square-foot store has moved into the space where Crate & Barrel operated for 18 years, in the Young Quinlan Building at 9th Street and Nicollet Mall. Consumers can shop there, but the store is aimed at corporate clients.

It's the sixth of Target's commercial furniture stores to open nationwide, and the second in Minnesota. Another showroom is scheduled to open in October in Madison, Wis.

Target's first showroom opened in Bloomington in 2005 as a test of whether its trendy-but-affordable offerings would sell to the business market.

Kosher spirits

A Minneapolis distiller has added an organic, kosher, luxury vodka to its product line. It's called Prairie Organic Vodka, and Phillips Distilling Co. is producing it at a small, farmer-owned cooperative in the central Minnesota town of Benson.

The Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. flushed its production systems long enough to switch from corn ethanol to corn alcohol, turning the 2007 crop of three family farmers into 29,000 cases of the high-end spirits.

Why kosher?

It's a credential that has more to do with quality than religion in the United States, CEO Dean Phillips said, with Jews consuming only half the kosher food and drink here.

Phillips said he was attracted to Chippewa Valley because of its emphasis on renewable energy, and in the cooperative spirit, he has given the members an equity stake in the five-generation, family-owned enterprise. Now, everyone is waiting for the 2008 harvest to make the second run.

It pays to think globally

Two Minnesota money managers are going global. First American Funds and Leuthold Wheeden Capital Management announced Tuesday that their globally oriented mutual fund concepts are open for business.

First American Funds' Global Infrastructure Fund "seeks to provide investors with the benefits of publicly traded global infrastructure investments that capitalize on the estimated $41 trillion that will be required to modernize and expand the world's infrastructure during the next 25 years," according to the release.

Think investments in companies that build roads, power lines, airports, communications equipment and water treatment plants. The S&P Global Infrastructure Index's five-year returns are 27.12 percent; its one-year return was 5.87 percent as of March 31.

Leuthold announced its global strategy in May, but just opened it to investors. The new fund will break down the world by 67 "global groups" -- stocks lumped together by type -- not country. The team, known for its research capabilities, found that the global grouping strategy would have outperformed investments using 50 country indexes since 2001.

Toro taking fight to Pa.

Saying that it did not have jurisdiction, the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis dismissed Toro Company's lawsuit against Pennyslvania-based Advanced Sensor Technology, a company that claimed that it alone had the exclusive right to sell a remote soil-monitoring system. Toro has vowed to fight on.

"The decision had nothing to do with the merits of the case and is purely a procedural matter," a Toro spokesman said. "All this means is that we'll litigate the case in Pennsylvania rather than Minnesota."

The companies began tussling in court in February, after AST sued Toro claiming patent infringement and Toro countersued, charging that AST ran false and misleading advertising that hurt Toro.

The AST ads, which ran before the U.S. Golf Industry Show in January, claimed that only AST could legally sell a wireless soil-moisture monitoring system.

AST then sued Toro and broadcast its gripes to the public via e-mail blasts to golfing executives and newspapers.

Toro claimed that it had obtained the rights to the wireless soil-monitoring technology through an acquisition, and complained that AST ran misleading ads. Toro introduced its competing product, called Turf Guard, at the golf show and balked that AST had timed its ads to inflict maximum damage on Toro's product launch.


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