Local business starts production at Clair Nelson Center « Back to Search Results

Friday afternoons at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland are normally pretty quiet and this was no different.

In the meeting room near the front, a couple of people were working quietly on laptop computers and further into the building the soft sounds of rising alt-country star Justin Townes Earle drift out of the industrial kitchen. In the kitchen, Shane Dickey was making the vegan sausages he and his wife, Gail Francis, plan to be the basis of their wholesale prepared vegan foods business, Superior Small Batch.

About two years ago, Dickey and Francis were heading back to the North Shore from visiting friends in the Twin Cities, but they needed to stop off at Francis's farmstead in Ojibwa, Wis., to pick up some furniture to bring back to the house they had rented together near Brimson and the two started talking about their experience in the food business. Both had experience in the food industry and in commercial kitchens and they had been working on recipes together for some time.

"We both had some interesting recipes that we thought were really good for vegetarian food and had had a lot of people who said we should market this stuff," Dickey said. "You never took it to heart because getting into the wholesale food business is an undertaking that I didn't really understand. We started thinking about and we thought, why not give this a shot, you know how it is on a long car trip, you talk and pretty soon you're making business decisions."

It wasn't long before the two were making plans to make vegan sausages for local restaurants and individuals to purchase wholesale. Francis is a full vegetarian and Dickey says he is about 80 percent vegetarian and the two initially wanted to find a protein source that was both sustainable and locally produced.

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Minnesota exported more than $20 billion worth of goods to more than 200 countries in 2015 (Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development)