Cheers to Emerging Local Spirits

“Can you spot the fence jumper?”

A Facebook video post shows the sheep at Christian Myrah’s farm eating away at the trough when suddenly the camera zeroes in on a large horse. Reminiscent of the old Sesame Street song, “One of These Things is Not Like the Others.”

That’s life on the farm. Caring for animals (even fence-jumpers) and working the fields. For Christian Myrah, the farm life offers another great opportunity – the opportunity to open up a whiskey distillery.

“We have all the natural resources here in southeast Minnesota to make good whiskey. We have limestone filtered water, same as in Kentucky, but we’re upstream, so it may even be better. We have the grains that lend themselves to whiskeys. And some of the best white oak for whiskey barrels grows right around here,” he says.

True to his word, Christian has started Rockfilter Distillery in Spring Grove. A small, craft distillery that will focus on whiskeys using only organic products, Rockfilter hopes to be serving in its cocktail lounge in Spring Grove by Homecoming 2017.

Why Spring Grove?

“I think I’d be the fourth generation of my family to farm here,” Christian says. “It doesn’t seem to be like other communities where Main Street is empty. We have Ye Olde Opera House, a local art gallery, the heritage center, and Spring Grove Communications is a forward-thinking company. We have high-speed fiber optic cable that people in the Twin Cities may not have.”

Right now, the whiskey is aging in barrels and Christian is sorting out the red-tape that comes with opening up an artisan distillery in Minnesota. “We’re not just using corn and rye,” Christian says, “we’re experimenting with different grains that we grow right here.”

Located in the old creamery building, Rockfilter Distillery will bring something different to Spring Grove, including new cocktails featuring Spring Grove Soda Pop.

By Homecoming 2017, locals will be able to hold a glass high and toast the newest business venture in the big-little town of Spring Grove.

Story by Tyler Omoth

Why Not Me - Todd Oakes

Todd Oakes was at home on the baseball field. Even as a 7th grader, he made the varsity baseball team. He was a kid playing with near adults and holding his own. Regardless of the odds, Todd always believed, “Why not me?’

Todd spent his time as a kid running around town, playing sports, and helping out at his dad’s gas station. He went to Sunday school and sipped on Spring Grove Soda Pop.

As he grew, he dominated the Spring Grove sports scene. He was a 3-time male athlete of the year, 2-time football MVP, 3-time basketball MVP, and 3-time baseball MVP. While he excelled at all sports, baseball was his passion.

Todd went on to pitch at the University of Nebraska and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 20th round of the 1983 MLB draft. Todd battled in the minor leagues for 15 years before changing directions.

No matter where he was living, he found himself returning to Minnesota in his spare time to visit family and friends, so when the University of Minnesota invited him to become their next pitching coach, he happily accepted.

In 18 years as the Golden Gophers pitching coach, Todd helped to shape over 20 pitchers that made it to the big leagues, including Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins. “There is not a single person more responsible for the career I’ve had than Todd Oakes,” Perkins said, “He has impacted me on the field more than anyone could have imagined or would have expected from a college pitching coach.”

In 2012, Todd was diagnosed with leukemia. Like the battler on the mound, he dug in his heels to fight. His “Never give up! Never give in!” attitude inspired those around him. He even wrote a book to help others find the courage to win their own cancer battles titled, Why Not Me? My Battle with Leukemia.

Todd served on the board of directors for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and was nominated for their Man of the Year Award in 2014.

Sadly, Todd lost his battle to leukemia in May of 2016, just as another baseball season was starting to gain momentum. In Spring Grove he is remembered as our greatest athlete and a man who touched the lives of many, both in his hometown and everywhere he went.

Story by Tyler Omoth

Nisse Treehouse - Darcy Thorson

“It’s pajama day today!” she says, pointing to her cozy holiday attire.

Meet Darcy Thorson, owner and director of Nisse Treehouse Child Care and Preschool in Spring Grove. It was the week before Christmas, and Darcy had a number of fun things planned for the children. Just down the hall, a group of giddy 3-year olds get ready to make the two-block walk down the street to the Spring Grove Cinema for a holiday movie. Bundled up in their winter clothes, they excitedly waddle down the hall and out the door.

The decision to start Nisse Treehouse began with her own personal story; as a mother of three young children, it has been difficult to secure high-quality care for them—especially amidst a major childcare shortage in the region. “Finding daycare has always been a struggle for my family,” said Darcy, citing issues such as in-home care’s unpredictable hours, lack of access to preschool, and lengthy daily daycare commutes.

Darcy is a Spring Grove native, and after living away from the community for years, she recently moved back. When she made the decision to return and open her own in-home daycare, every spot was filled before she even got back to town. The need was greater than she originally thought, and she got to work on the planning and licensing process for building a new child care center. The Spring Grove Economic Development Authority helped Darcy secure grants and financing to purchase land adjacent to Spring Grove Public School and complete construction on the new facility, which features an infant room, preschool classrooms, a commercial kitchen, and a dance studio. The community came together to celebrate this new community asset when Nisse Treehouse opened in fall 2016.

Learn more about how you can live, work, and play in Spring Grove at www.springgrovemn.com/

Story by Courtney Bergey