DULUTH – A 100-plus-year-old building with a three-suite Scandinavian-style boutique hotel upstairs and a cobbler’s shop at street level, among the first places to get a facelift as the neighborhood transforms into craft district, is for sale in the heart of Lincoln Park.
Couple Chelsy Whittington and Andy Matson bought the building at 1923 W. Superior St. before Bent Paddle Brewing Co. expanded to a new bar and before the popular OMC Smokehouse began spreading smoked meat smells throughout the neighborhood – two references in the recent Lincoln Park refill. Since then, the building has received a new roof and windows, updated kitchens and bathrooms – and a steady stream of guests at Hotel Pikku.
“We’ve been as busy as I wanted,” said Whittington, who is still booking through the end of June. She is the hostel’s main caretaker and takes care of reservations, cleaning, and handwritten notes to guests.
Hotel Pikku has three suites, each with a bedroom, bathroom and living room. Two have a kitchen. The building, which houses its 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 hotel’s name isn’t included in the sale.
“We’ve had weddings, people got married there and gotten ready there,” Whittington said. “People come there and take pictures when they’re pregnant. It’s great fun growing up with people.”
Whittington plans to focus on another family business: Awesome! Lakes Candy Kitchen, a North Shore landmark and multi-generational boutique in Knife River, Minn.
Whittington has a fondness for boutique inns which attracted her to the business. This is the type of accommodation she and Matson look for when they travel. And she has long been involved in hospitality. She worked at the New Scenic Café and served as Experience Director at the Vikre Distillery. Whittington’s aesthetic is natural, vintage, clean: pour-over coffeemakers in the bedrooms, penny tiles 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 walk into a room is read the guestbook,” she said.
The white-brick building’s neighbors include Flora North Florist, Duluth Pottery & Art Gallery, and across the aisle, Duluth Folk School.
Stephanie LaFleur, president of Lincoln Park Business Group and owner of the Caddy Shack Indoor Golf & Pub, said the Pikku Hotel has drawn people from across the country to the neighborhood.
“Because of this beautiful, small and intimate space, they’ll hang out and hang out in Lincoln Park,” she said.
LaFleur said she thinks the building will sell easily. There are few spaces available for rent in the neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of interest in Lincoln Park,” she said.
The Pikku Hotel’s over 3,700 square foot building, which has always had living spaces on its upper level, was designed by the firm Wagenstein & Baillie. The first 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 retains its hotel identity will depend on the owner. Whittington has hope for his future.
“I really want someone to keep the integrity of the building,” she said. “It took a lot of hard work, time and everything to bring it back to its glory days.”