18 April 2022
DULUTH — A 100-plus year old building with a three-suite Scandinavian-styled boutique hotel upstairs and shoemaker’s shop at street level, among the early spots to get a modern makeover during the neighborhood’s rebranding as a craft district, is for sale in the heart of Lincoln Park.
Couple Chelsy Whittington and Andy Matsonbought the building at 1923 W. Superior St. before Bent Paddle Brewing Co. expanded to a new taproom and before the popular OMC Smokehouse began pumping smoked meat smells into the neighborhood — two benchmarks in Lincoln Park’s recent recharge. Since then, the building has gotten a new roof and new windows, revamped kitchens and bathrooms — and a steady stream of guests at Hotel Pikku.
“We’ve been as busy as I’ve wanted to be,” said Whittington, who is still booking through the end of June. She is the inn’s main keeper and handles reservations, cleaning and handwritten notes to guests.
Hotel Pikku has three suites, each with one bedroom, a bathroom and a living room. Two have a kitchen. The building, which houses their tenant Hemlocks Leatherworks at street level, is listed at $895,000 by commercial real estate broker Greg Follmer.
Pikku is Finnish for “small” — but the name of the hotel isn’t included in the sale.
“We’ve had weddings, people getting married there and getting ready there,” Whittington said. “People come there and take pictures when they’re pregnant. It’s lots of fun to grow with people.”
Whittington plans to shift her focus to another family business: Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen, a North Shore landmark and multigenerational shop in Knife River, Minn.
Whittington has a fondness for boutique inns that drew her to the business. This is the type of lodging she and Matson seek out when traveling. And she’s long been involved in hospitality. She worked at the New Scenic Café and was the experience director at Vikre Distillery. Whittington’s aesthetic is natural, vintage, clean: pour-over coffeemakers in the rooms, penny tile in the bathrooms, nature-themed mobiles by artist Peter Witrak in the atriums. Each room has a leather journal for visitors to share a message.
“The first thing I do when I get into a room is read the guest book,” she said.
The white brick building’s neighbors include the the flower shop Flora North, Duluth Pottery & Art Gallery and, across the alley, Duluth Folk School.
Stephanie LaFleur, the president of the Lincoln Park Business Group and owner of the Caddy Shack Indoor Golf & Pub, said Hotel Pikku has brought people from around the country to the neighborhood.
“Because of that beautiful, small, intimate space, they’ll loiter, and they’ll loiter in Lincoln Park,” she said.
LaFleur said she thinks the building will sell easily. There are few available spaces for rent in the neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of interest in Lincoln Park,” she said.
The more than 3,700-square-foot Hotel Pikku building, which has always had living spaces in its upper level, was designed by the firm Wagenstein & Baillie. The former was the local architect who worked on the St. Louis County Courthouse, in addition to well-known structures such as the Masonic Temple and the DeWitt-Seitz building. The latter died of tuberculosis before the building at 1923 W. Superior St. was completed in 1899, according to city records.
Whether the building keeps its identity as a hotel will be up to the owner. Whittington has one hope for its future.
“I definitely want someone to keep the integrity of the building,” she said. “It took a lot of hard work and time and everything to get it back to its glory days.”