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Author Archive

Leveraging the Hill

The James J. Hill Center is continually appreciative to the individuals that visit and discover the amazing resources we have to offer. In an ongoing effort to spread the word about what resources are available at the Hill and how they can be used, we have decided to share some of our patron’s stories on how they have leveraged the Hill for their success. Thanks to Ross Manthei for sharing his insight on our “not-so-secret” resources. 

How did you hear about the Hill and when did you start coming?
About 10 years ago I was talking to my best friend about his new sales job and this “secret resource” he found that he was convinced was going to “push him over the top” with quality info on his prospects.  I was doubtful at first and thought the James J. Hill Library (now the James J. Hill Center) was actually (perhaps) tucked inside the James J Hill house on Summit (by the way…it’s not).  I decided to check it out because I heard it was great for entrepreneurs to help them get kick started with their events and remembered what my friend told me.

What is your business or career?
Like most, I try to be the Dos Equis man with having many different interests and sometimes needing to dial that in.  I work in sales for a financial institution today consulting with middle market companies on payment products as well as payment technologies to help their businesses.  It requires a large amount of inside research to have relevant & intelligent conversations to which why I’m thankful to James J. Hill.  Outside of that, I have an baby care line of products that I’m launching called “Giggles and Poo,” am launching a podcast called “The Journey with Ross” and would like to also try my hand at stand-up comedy.  As I said, a  Renaissance millennial man – ha!  Honestly, I just like laughing and helping people.

How have you leveraged the Hill center resources and how are they unique?
I have used the business reference librarians let’s say probably more than most (Jessica is awesome) to help with things like what databases to use for researching things like info on private companies (Privco), prospect lists (A-Z databases) and also have leveraged the new business start-up networking.  Plus, the library is just a beautiful and quiet place to hang if you’re doing work.

How has the Hill been critical to your success?
It’s saved me thousands of dollars to get data and also a lot of frustration in the trust of data.

What recommendations do you have for other researchers and entrepreneurs?
There’s many places claiming to have “free” information when in fact they’re just trying to “sell you something.”  At the end of the day, James J. Hill Center is a secret gem that is perfect for a deeper level of research than you would normally get at a community library.  I’m sure those people can be helpful and are fantastic; however, I’ve never met so many people willing to help without tons of long lines!

The other piece of advice that I would share is mentoring is key.  There are many events at James J Hill Center where you can meet many other people who are very generous with their knowledge.

What is the one thing that makes you keep coming back to the Hill?
The willingness to help, the amazing free access to resources and the beautiful space!

The James J. Hill Center connects business, entrepreneurs and community to research, knowledge and network. Visit us Monday through Thursday from 8:00AM to 4:00PM to find out how we can help you succeed. 

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The Ice Palace Rises: History of the Winter Carnival

As the 2018 St. Paul Winter Carnival ice palace rises up in front of us in Rice Park, our staff has been feeling especially inspired to revisit the past while planning for festivities in the upcoming weeks.

The Winter Carnival has long held the interest of Hill Center staff. We recently discovered an essay on winter sports and the carnival penned by Anna Heilmaier, one of the Hill’s earliest librarians who worked here for nearly 40 years. She notes the extraordinary nature of our chilly festivities: “The earliest winter carnivals in St. Paul were no less gay than those of recent years, judging by contemporary accounts,” and cites national admiration for our ice palaces: “the fame of St. Paul’s ice palace goes back more than fifty years.”

What Heilmaier doesn’t mention in her short piece was the Hill’s connection with the Winter Carnival via Louis W. Hill, James J. Hill’s son.

The idea of starting a Winter Carnival came from an unexpected source. In the fall of 1885, several newspaper reporters from the eastern U.S. visited Minnesota, and their resulting articles painted a picture of a frozen, uninhabitable wasteland. James J. Hill and other prominent businessmen wanted to correct this negative image and to draw more visitors and settlers to the area. To this end, they came up with the idea of the Winter Carnival, designed to show onlookers that Minnesota is fun and livable, even in the middle of winter.

The Winter Carnival was put on 1886 through 1888, and then was not held again until 1896. After this, there was a 20 year lull. In 1916, Louis W. Hill entered the story, helping to resurrect the Carnival. As a result of his efforts, he was asked to serve as Carnival president in 1916 and 1917. Louis W. Hill remained interested in the Winter Carnival for the remainder of his life, and offered his support to the next Carnival revivals between 1937 and 1942.

During the 1940s and 1950s—and perhaps during other years left unrecorded in our archives—the Hill Reference Library (now the James J. Hill Center) would close early for the Vulcan Victory Parade. Our records don’t state the specific reason for closing early, but we like to think it was for staff and guests to join in on the festivities.

As we anticipate the next three weeks and the People’s Palace across the street, we here at the Hill find ourselves agreeing with Heilmaier’s parting sentiment:

“However much St. Paul’s winter carnival may change outwardly in conformity with changing times and styles, two factors remain constant: crisp white Minnesota winters and the spirit of good fun and fellowship.”

Stop in at the James J. Hill Center during Winter Carnival to warm up with free hot beverages, activities and special discounts. Check our calendar for more details.


Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center, and adapted from a blog post by Leah Kodner
If you have more questions about the reference library or our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Wait Training: Top 5 Pieces of Advice for a Successful Year End

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each  month.

If you have followed this monthly blog series, then you already know that this series is less about the instructional tips of starting and growing your business, and everything about my personal journey of finding my way as an entrepreneur. Wait Training is sort of an odd theme for a business blog series, but over the last twelve years, my entrepreneurial journey has been all about finding value, learning patience and gaining strength from every step along the way.

Over the last twelve years, I’ve met great leaders, and learned valuable lessons. As I prepare to wrap up another year in business, I spent some time reflecting on some of the best pieces of advice I have received from business leaders along the way.

Here are my top five…

  1. Begin With a Plan, End With Reflection

Dreaming, planning and drafting a vision for your business is the fuel that charges entrepreneurs. We reach for the stars, we dream up the impossible and we recruit a team of supporters who are willing to cheer us on along the way. Equally as important as drafting the plan is the practice of reviewing that same plan at year end. As entrepreneurs, it can be more exciting to remain in planning and dreaming mode, so we often overlook the importance of reflecting upon what worked, what needs to be changed and how do we grow based on results. Carve out enough time in your year end process for reflection.

  1. Self-care is Required

Entrepreneurs dream big and go hard, and social entrepreneurs add in immeasurable amounts of compassion. Entrepreneurs believe in their venture and are willing to dedicate limitless time to make things happen. Most entrepreneurs have a plan and a strategy to achieve success, but rarely do we find self-care included in that plan. Self-care is vitally important to longevity and satisfaction. When we ignore the importance of self-care, we are more likely to experience burnout. From carving out time to enjoy a hobby or scheduling a short vacation, self-care is required to maintain a healthy business and a healthy life.

  1. Ask for Help

Entrepreneurs create solutions. We solve problems. Whether based on necessity or personality, entrepreneurs are very skilled at managing multiple responsibilities to produce a desired outcome. Operating as a team of one for an extended period of time is the norm for many startup ventures. As growth happens, it can be very difficult to invite others into your journey…but it is required to scale up and for sustainability. Ending each year with a clear understanding of areas where you should ask for help and identifying specific resources is a valuable practice.

  1. Your Time is a Precious Commodity

We have all heard a million and one times over, time is the one thing you can never get back. That is so true and we have to begin to value time as the precious and limited resource it is. You can add to your team, you can earn more money, but you can’t add more time. It is important to take an assessment of how your time was spent over the year and make the necessary adjustments for a more productive new year.

  1. Never Give Up

When all is said and done…never give up on your dream. When you get to the end of the year, change will always be required. Prepare for it, adjust for it and grow from it, but never give up. From my heart, to your dream…you’ve got this! Here’s to a successful year end!

Happy Year End!


As always, Junita would love to hear from you. How do you prepare for a successful year end review? Click here to send her your process. You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.    

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Soft Skills Revolution: Befriending Chaos

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for the Soft Skills Revolution to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

Life would be so much easier if everything stayed the same, wouldn’t it? Preparing for that speech or meeting or interview would be a heck of a lot easier if you new exactly what was going to happen, right?

We would adapt to the precise moment when the projector would break. We’d jump right on the last-second agenda change. We could prepare for that last question no one would ever expect.

Awesome concept, right?  Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite, in fact.

First of all, the world isn’t like Groundhog’s Day. Something about the second law of thermodynamics and time’s arrow. Change is our only constant.  Besides, look how unhappy Bill Murray became. Like it or not, we depend on change. Luckily, that’s a skill that you can develop.

Rehearsed Spontaneity

One of the highlights of my career has been to work alongside academy award winning actor, Mark Rylance. He has a shelf of awards for his acting, but he’s also a generous director and mentor.

In a play he wrote and directed, I played a snowmobile riding, Norse, frost giant. In most plays, the director gives actors blocking and expects them to always follow it. Mark didn’t. Instead, he described the relationship between characters onstage. If a character moved one way, we would react and respond instead of moving in a rehearsed and rigid fashion that was constructed for us.

His commitment to chaos was so great that he would also change things he thought were working too well. If he thought something became routine, he would break it up and force us back to reacting to it.

This experience gave me a certain comfort in chaos. Through rehearsing in what appeared like chaos I developed an appetite for unpredictability. Because of this method, I actually joined the audience by encountering aspects of the play for the first time every night, together, with them.

Befriending chaos through practice is the first step to handling unexpected moments with ease.

Cultivating Flexibility

We can “rehearse spontaneity” with the people we seek to connect with. Instead of hoping that things unfold like we plan, we can plan on unpredictability. We can hold on tightly to the points we want to make. But at the same time,  let go of particular thoughts or ideas that hold us back.

Here is an excises to try:

  1. Think of your “Big Idea” and a few supporting words.
  2. Talk through them enough times so that you’re as clear and concise as you can be.
  3. Write down what you said.
  4. Read it aloud.
  5. Now re-draft to get the words perfect.
  6. Print out your final copy. Place the paper in front of you and turn it over.
  7. Talk through your “Big Idea” and supporting thoughts without using any of the words on the paper in front of you.

You have just written your own mini-script. Now that you know your steps you can do the dance.

Results May Vary in Delight

Many of my clients do not like the exercise above. It takes work and commitment. What happens though is almost always a delight to them and me. They engage with the change.

They find new words to share the ideas and the “idea” is now fresher than ever. I hear them thinking, not talking. The words they wrote disappear, replaced by thoughts and authenticity.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be with someone who can conquer change. That’s real. That’s worth listening to?

Hear Everyone but Listen Only to Yourself

Remember the idea and forget the words. There is power and presence in that concept.  When you listen to yourself everyone will hear you.

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Soft Skills Revolution: The Real Thing

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

We all want the real thing.

Nowhere is that more important than in communication. Whether you are in front of an audience or in an interview, the people you are trying to connect with want the real you. The quickest way to lose an audience is being inauthentic, fake or disingenuous.

The master communicators are able to bring much, if not all, of their real selves to their audiences. How do they do it? One way is to use feedback to draw and change the lines separating different versions of themselves. This empowers them to bring more of their unique personality to what an audience perceives. They are able to be real.

No, It’s Not About You

A speaker without an audience is like that tree falling in the forest with no one around. Pretty much nothing. Everything depends on the version of you the audience perceives and leaves with.

You can’t just stride up to the podium and say, “Alright, what would you like to talk about?” That’s not going to work too well. You have to bring something to the audience first. The connection between a speaker and audience must begin with the speaker. Audiences pay attention to get a return of interest.

Yes it is: The Real You

When you meet someone one, the most interesting thing you have to offer is yourself. Yes, I am sure you have great ideas, advice and insight. When you are face-to-face with someone those take a back seat to you as a unique human being.

Audiences want you to be real, to be yourself. They enjoy being around someone who doesn’t worry about what everyone thinks. That’s the trick, isn’t it? You care a lot about what the audience thinks. So it’s hard to act like you don’t care.

Well, let me tell you  a little secret: They don’t know you. No one does. Not the “real” you.

An audience only ever sees a sliver of the “real” you. An important sliver. There’s enormous power in this.

No it’s not You: It’s the Audience You

Putting some distance between you and what the audience perceives gives you valuable space. That allows you to use feedback to shift your perspective. That shift is from the “real” you to what you could call the Audience You.

Your reflection in a mirror is an accurate representation of what you look like, right? It’s like there’s this other person looking back at you. Meeting that other person can be hard sometimes, but it’s what most people see–for better or for worse. Meeting this other person in the mirror shifts your perspective to the people looking at you. Feedback on performance introduces you to the Audience You.

And yet, the reflection in the mirror doesn’t define you. Neither does feedback. This is the critical last step to incorporating feedback: the Audience You doesn’t define real you. If everyone says that you bomb your speech, you haven’t bombed life. That kind of feedback tells you there’s a disconnect between the real you and the Audience You. If you’re going to speak again,  work to close that gap.

Ask people what they think of the Audience You. Their feedback will shift your perspective. Encourage them to be specific and honest so you can get a good look at this reflection of you. Don’t forget to thank them and put it to work to make the audience you a more accurate reflection of the real you.

It will make a difference. Really.


Guest writer:
 Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Wait Training: Soaring Into the Next Chapter

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita is starting a blog series with the Hill, called ‘Wait Training’. Over her career, Junita has learned the value of “waiting” with her business and is looking forward to sharing her experiences.

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday. Four decades plus five additional fingers, made me pause and ponder, what’s next for me as an entrepreneur. My previous chapter as an entrepreneur was all about strengthening my current business foundation and doing the work in preparation for take-off. My next chapter…I’m ready to soar!

There is so much life and opportunity in creating the next chapter. It’s an opportunity to learn from and build upon the past, with the freedom to create the future.

My next chapter opens with the excitement and vulnerability of managing a growth cycle in my business. Managing business growth is hard, it’s exhausting and often times, absolutely terrifying. While there are many external factors that can complicate the business growth process, the biggest obstacle can often be the entrepreneur themselves. From making the wrong hiring decisions to being temporarily sidelined by fear, we can get in our own way of achieving the success we’re working so hard to accomplish.

As I create new systems, manage growing pains and execute my growth plan, here are five simple strategies that I use to get out of my own way and soar.

  1. Believe – One of the key foundational principles of my business journey is to believe in myself, my vision and my process. I can tell you, before the resources accumulate, the people gather and the business flourishes, I had to believe that I was creating something bigger than myself.
  2. Find your people, grow your team – We’ve all heard it said a million and one times over…you cannot be successful on your own.  Asking for assistance and widening my circle of supporters has by far added the most value to my growth personally and professionally, and has been the overall success of my business. As I continue to form new relationships and add to my team, the process becomes manageable and my impact dramatically increases.
  3. Measure, Manage, Maximize – I have found these three factors vitally important in every phase of my business journey. While these three factors will look different at various stages in business, creating a system that measures results, manages the growth process and maximizes output, puts a business on a successful growth trajectory.
  4. Face your fears – Here’s what I know for sure: growth and advancement only happen on the other side of fear. Facing fears head-on and devising a plan of action allows me to consistently move beyond limitations and expand the possibilities.
  5. Soar – I’ve built the foundation. I’ve invested the time. I’ve secured and managed my resources. It’s time to live it out. It’s time to soar.

As I share my growth process and lessons learned from my journey as an entrepreneur, I would love to hear from you. “Click here” to send me a note and share how my business journey inspires you to share your journey. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.   

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Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know: Dear Investors, Entrepreneurs Spell Love “ T-I-M-E”

Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in Minnesota.  He is an Associate at @gener8tor, contributor for @startupgrind, ambassador for @1millioncupsspl and a lover of all things tech & startups. We are pleased to have his monthly insight with our blog “Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know.”  Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.

Dear Investors, Entrepreneurs Spell Love “ T-I-M-E”:
The keys to becoming a prolific angel investor

Angel investors are an integral portion of the early stage funding community!

Who makes a good or bad angel anyways? Traditionally, this boils down to two things:

  1. Good Angels are great for seed money.
  2. Bad angel are great for money and additional headaches.

Return on investment VS community development

Think of angel investing as a means for community development. By helping small businesses succeed in your community, you help create jobs, wealth and help make your community more sustainable!

Money is great! It’s the crucial first step, but that’s not it. The truth is…

Giving entrepreneurs money does NOT buy you access, its only a small part of the equation. Yes, you need it and when you want it you want it badly and you care at that moment. But a year later when you succeed, you’ll clearly remember which investors helped along the way. Support is just as crucial as a financial investment because entrepreneurs spell love T-I-M-E.  Did you spend time in making the necessary intros, were you a great sounding board etc.

Most investors (including VC’s) are not well acquainted with that reality or they have a reality of their own that makes it hard for them to spend that type of time. What will end up happening is the company will do worse, and your deal flow will dry up because surprise, surprise: founders talk to each other.

The role of an angel investor?

  1. Don’t worry about the mechanics — especially if you are starting out. Valuations don’t matter especially in the early stage. The whole point is to be helpful enough to get the company to the next milestone so they can raise more money!!
  2. Be decisive — don’t “strategically” string founders along. Make up your mind quickly and follow through.
  3. Do good. Once you invest in a company, all you should want to do is help it. Help people you haven’t invested in too. Just try to be helpful.

Conclusion

Instead of looking at angel investing as a form of high profits. Let’s change our perspective to looking at it as a way of giving back to our community.  That way, we’ll have more ownership which will lead to added value without the headaches.

For reference, check out this great article written by Paul Graham on becoming an angel investor.


You can tweet me @alecksonn or subscribe to my newsletter

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Culinary Artistry

The Hill is fortunate to be supported by great organizations that believe in our mission to connect business, entrepreneurs and community.  These Minnesota staples are some of the long standing business making this state great. Envision Catering is one of those unique and dynamic institutions. The Hill Center is pleased to have them not only as a vendor, but as exclusive food sponsor for their upcoming 2017 gala. We had the opportunity to chat with Director of Hospitality, Alana Koderick about what makes Envision different.  

When and how did Envision Catering begin?
Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1940 and backed with 77 years of experience, our chefs at Envision Catering & Hospitality have been presenting unmatched, award-winning culinary artistry that delivers not only creative and delicious meals, but a noteworthy experience as well.

What do you want people to know about Envision and what sets you apart?
We skillfully showcase our food artistically and offer innovate menus that can be customized for each individual event. We listen to our clients ideas and dreams and we make them reality. We work hard and take pride in continuing our heritage of being the BEST caterer in the Twin Cities. We serve Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding areas.

The older generation may know us as Prom Catering, a company renowned for its legacy and experience in serving the Twin Cities with delicious food options. When people think of Prom Catering, the iconic Prom Ballroom in St. Paul, is one of their first memories. A legacy created by the Given family that began in the 1940s and has continued to grow. We have a commitment to excellence that has not wavered throughout the years.

What is Envision really great at?
“If you can Envision it, we can create it.” Our motto is carried throughout our menu design and event day presentation and execution. Grand, intimate, luxury or casual, our unique dining experience is grounded in the art of listening to our guests. We do not subscribe to a cookie cutter template. Instead we see each guest as an individual and each event as unique. We are proud of the highest level that our team performs at for each and every event.

What are you most proud of?
Sourcing local, hand designing each display and delivering a pleasant hospitality experience from start to finish, keeps our mission personal. Our all-inclusive service enlists our talented staff to design and execute menus for weddings, corporate events, and everything in between.

What has been the largest hurdle your organization has faced and what are steps you took to turn things around?
Our biggest hurdle has been re-branding from Prom Catering, which was so successful and recognizable in the Twin Cities for decades, to Envision Catering & Hospitality. We are a family owned company that carries and combines those seven plus decades of experience from Prom Catering to where we are now, which is a forward thinking company with a current team of individuals who are savvy to all the new culinary trends while still appreciating and recommending the the classic dishes that will forever be in style when appropriate.

What are your hopes for Envision’s future?
We want to be a leader in the banquet and catering business in our community and to continue to develop new revenue streams in this highly competitive market. We strive to develop the current talent in our kitchens and offices which will continue to help us to grow our business. Most of all we want to retain the trust that our clients have placed in us to make their event beautiful and memorable in a positive way. We have always treated our clients like family and we plan to continue that tradition for as long as we are in business.

For more information about Envision Catering & Hospitality visit their website or join the Hill Center for our 2017 gala “A Great Northern Evening” on Friday, October 27 and see Envision’s artistry in action.  Get your tickets now!

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A Legacy of Quality

The Hill believes it is important to profile not only startups and entrepreneurs but also some of the long standing businesses that make Minnesota unique. Surdyk’s has been a staple of our community for the past 80 years. The Hill Center is pleased to have them not only as a vendor, but as exclusive bar sponsor for our upcoming 2017 gala. We had the opportunity to chat with Catering Director Emily Dunne about their legacy of quality and the steps that got them where they are today. 

When and how did Surdyk’s Catering begin?
Surdyk’s is currently a 4th-generation family-owned and operated business. We’ve been making entertaining easy since 1934, holding the 11th Liquor License issued in Minneapolis after the repeal of Prohibition. Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop has long been considered the ultimate fine food and beverage destination in the Twin Cities, and in the past decade, we’ve expanded the brand into a wine bar at MSP Airport and a full-service food and liquor catering operation. It’s an exciting time of growth for this old business!

What do you want people to know about Surdyk’s and what sets you apart?
We’ve been in business for over 80 years. Needless to say, we’ve got a bit of experience selling and serving delicious things. Surdyk’s is best known for our incredible wine shelves, but a lot of folks don’t realize just how comprehensive the selection at our flagship store is. Whether you’re looking for a funky European cheese, the most obscure Mezcal, or the newest, hoppiest craft beer, our staff is passionate, knowledgeable, and eager to help. You just can’t get that on Amazon. If I had to define the essence of Surdyk’s, it would be that over the course of 80 years, we’ve always taken pride in providing great products and a great customer experience. We believe these two go hand in hand.

What is Surdyk’s really great at?
We are really great at making entertaining easy and approachable. Surdyk’s Catering was born out of a desire to make our superb products and equally superb service accessible to the Twin Cities events market. The formula is simple: great food, great drink, and great service are the ingredients for a perfect event. Our team supports every client every step of the way, from the first phone call to the final clean up. We believe this level of service would not be possible without a genuine, insatiable love of food and drink running through the veins of every single team member.

What are you most proud of?
I’ve been here since the inception of Surdyk’s Catering, so it’s safe to say that I’m proud of a lot. I’d have to say I’m most proud of our outright refusal to compromise on ingredients. A lot of companies have jumped on the farm-to-table bandwagon, but we’ve been doing this for decades. We source the best local, sustainably produced, organic ingredients available, and all of the food we serve is made from scratch in our kitchen. We work with as many local distilleries and breweries as we possibly can. We know our vendors. Maybe we don’t brag about that enough…

What has been the largest hurdle your organization has faced and what are steps you took to turn things around?
Growth is hard! I’ve always been a big advocate of responsible growth, which is even harder. We’ve had to build our team incrementally, which has meant a lot of long days and nights for me and my core team. That said, it is so exciting to finally recognize the moment we’ve “earned” the ability to hire for a new position. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished.

What are your hopes for Surdyk’s future?
I hope we can continue to build on the incredible legacy of quality associated with the Surdyk name. I want to make the owners proud. We don’t need to be the biggest or even the most popular catering company out there, but I hope at the very least to continue to grow this business to a point that people stop saying, “What? Surdyk’s does catering?!?”

For more information about Surdyk’s Catering visit their website or join the Hill Center for our 2017 gala “A Great Northern Evening” on Friday, October 27 and see Surdyk’s quality in action.  Get your tickets now!

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Door Number 6

If you’ve spent some time at the Hill, you may have noticed the 12 numbered rooms along the south wall of the building. These doors, while now office spaces and bathrooms, once served as study rooms that housed a myriad of researchers, authors and artists.

One such author by the name of Mr. Richardson B. Okie spent almost every day between the war years of 1938 and 1942 in study room 6. This particular study room is located on the mezzanine level, directly behind the large painting of James J. Hill on the Reading Room wall. Mr. Okie was a St. Paul-ite who took to study room 6 so well that he even came in on his wedding day.

We tracked down one of Mr. Okie’s published stories that showed up in the May 1941 edition of The Atlantic magazine, which was of course penned in study room 6. It’s an article called, “When Greek Met Greek. A Story,” which is a fictional account of whistling men recalling the tales of ancient Sparta.

The study rooms at the Hill harken back to a time when the book collection comprised of topics in every subject (with the exception of law, medicine, and fiction).  They supported the “serious researcher” that James J. Hill envisioned would be attracted to his library. While many of the original books that Mr. Okie would have poured over are now gone, we look to our Empire Builder collection on library floor “5” for our oldest titles – look for the bright green dots on the book spines to spot one.

Learn more of the story behind the Hill Center, these images and the epic building in our Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. In this one hour experience you will go back in time, up and down catwalks, through vaults and peek in hidden nooks and crannies.  Our October tour is coming up so get your tickets early!


Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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