There are those individuals who, for a variety of reasons, are just good to know. They include great attorneys—everybody needs good legal advice; experts on how to help your child get into a great college (did you know such efforts now begin before junior year of high school?); and the creatives who own or manage the area’s best restaurants in which to do business.
Carolyn Agin Schmidt
Law Office of Carolyn Agin Schmidt
One mistake—or false accusation—can have the criminal justice system breathing down any business exec’s neck. Since 1990, their first call is to Agin Schmidt, a top-flight criminal defense attorney and DWI specialist. Low-key but forceful, she personifies decorum in court, and has an uncanny knack for staying on the judge’s good side. She also keeps a tight rein on ego-driven clients; and face it—if you’re looking at criminal charges, that could be you.
Patterson Thuente Christensen Pedersen, P.A.
Patent law changed dramatically with 2011’s America Invents Act, but most patent-holders are too busy inventing new stuff to keep up. Enter Pedersen, a high-tech patent attorney with more than 25 years’ experience and a reputation as a guy who hardly ever sleeps. Pedersen knows new law backward and forward, and his U.S. patent office connections cue him in on likely future changes. Should you need intellectual property representation, he could well be worth a call.
Lewis Remele Jr.
Whoever said that bow ties symbolize a lack of intellectual rigor never met Remele. Voted Minnesota’s best attorney by Super Lawyers nine out of the last 11 years, even the august Joe Friedberg once hired him to defend against a defamation suit. Whether you need representation in a sexual harassment case, a family business breakup, or any of the myriad types of business litigation executives grapple with, you can do no better than to call Remele.
Villaume & Schiek, P.A.
At five-foot-six and 160 pounds, Villaume is not outwardly intimidating, but no one underestimates his raw toughness. An employment law specialist, Villaume will take on almost any case, whatever the odds. He currently is defending Michael Brodkorb in a messy, sexually charged lawsuit against Brodkorb’s ex-employer, the Minnesota Senate. Simply put, Villaume’s reputation is that of a fearless jurist—a strong option to keep on speed-dial for someone facing workplace abuse or wrongful termination.
Experts on College Financing
Wallin Educational Partners
If economic need is a baseline concern, the person to get to know is Freed, who took the helm of Wallin Educational Partners in 2011. A Minneapolis-based college scholarship and advising program, Wallin has approximately 600 students in its program, which provides four-year scholarships totaling an average of $16,000 and advising services to lower-income students in Twin Cities-area high schools. The program is competitive as well as effective—the most recent six-year graduation rate for students was 79 percent. Freed says the program is looking for students who demonstrate academic promise and achievement, as well as community involvement.
Suzanne Luse & Associates
Being admitted to a great college is more daunting than ever. Besides a strong GPA, there’s a long list of other “must-haves” ranging from selecting the right coursework during junior year of high school to shaping applications and essays to fit the specific college’s desires. Luse consults with high school students and their parents on such matters and provides everything from essay editing and interview practice to research on possible endowments, scholarships and other non-need-based financial aid research. She recommends that high schoolers become involved in their communities: It makes them more attractive candidates and increases the possibility they could receive a merit or leadership scholarship.
The least-known restaurant on this list, Atlas has anchored US Bank Plaza (formerly Pillsbury Center) for two decades and caters to legal and government figures. Proprietor Anbar knows his customers by face and name, rare in this era, and will open early, close late, or even bring lunch up to an office suite to serve his business clientele. The restaurant, with a Mediterranean-American menu, is jumping at lunch, but is hushed and out-of-view in the evenings.
Russell and Desta Klein
The St. Paul Grill goes without saying in this category, but if you’re looking to set up a quieter lunch with an important client or to discuss a delicate matter in a less “on-stage” environment, the discreet Meritage down the block is a top choice. One of the Kleins is always in attendance—say hello and they’re at your service, old-style hospitality personified. Meritage also serves the most authentic French food in the Twin Cities.
Good Day Café
If business is being done over breakfast or lunch in the west ’burbs, odds are it’s happening at Good Day Café on I-394. GDC is the antithesis of the traditional dark-suit restaurant—no private rooms, no reservations, and no frills besides good short-order fare and enough noise to make whispering unnecessary. It’s helmed by Peterson, a multi-decade vet of the local restaurant wars, who will find you a table in the quiet alcove if need be.
Mission American Kitchen
Catering to the finance and corporate crowd that offices near Nicollet Mall, Mission is the buzzing business lunch hub of downtown. It’s been run by Ritacco almost since day one and meets the needs of a business clientele: Ritacco and team will find you an out-of-the-way table for a sensitive lunch or a seat at the busy bar if you’re on your own.
Manny’s Steakhouse (Parasole Restaurant Holdings)
A relative newcomer to the breakfast and lunch universe, Manny’s has firmly ensconced itself in the hearts (and stomachs) of the business crowd on the south end of downtown. There’s no more atmospheric spot to strategize or negotiate than the red-checked booths in Manny’s bar, with its chummy staff of bartenders. Parasole Restaurant Holdings founder Roberts, who can be spotted occasionally at a Manny’s booth, is Twin Cities restaurant royalty, an unparalleled “connected man” to know.
There are surprisingly few restaurants that cater to the executive diner in the corporate-heavy Southdale strip. Ciao Bella is where the jacket-and-tie crowd heads for lunch. Its Italian-influenced fare pleases both sophisticates and the less urbane, and the white-tablecloth ambience is rare in this chain-heavy stretch of the suburbs. Unassuming longtime owner Webb, though rarely working the dining room, is worth having in your Rolodex.
Top Nonprofit Leaders
Bonner is one of two principals at Family Philanthropy Advisors, a boutique firm that helps individuals and families develop their philanthropic practices. From starting a new foundation to developing a focused grant-making strategy to attending to myriad regulatory and administrative tasks needed for smooth back-office functions, Bonner and the firm have become trusted advisers to families whose circumstances allow them to make personal philanthropy a high priority. Bonner comes to the practice with a background in law, nonprofit management, and corporate philanthropy, including experience as director of the Piper Jaffray Foundation and U.S. Bancorp Foundation.
Leafblad’s network is as wide as it is deep. He founded Pollen, the regional social network with more than 4,000 members and counting. Pollenites help each other spread news of their work with an orientation toward the civic-engagement and social-enterprise sectors. Using social networking tools, Pollen provides the vehicle for members to connect around job postings, event announcements, news, and links to books, articles, and trend information. When he’s not busy with Pollen, Leafblad works at KeyStone Search to place candidates in leadership positions in civic organizations. Need a connection? It’s likely Leafblad knows the person you’re looking for.
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
Looking for deep background on trends in the nonprofit sector? Want to talk to someone who has an informed perspective on nonprofit effectiveness and best practices? Pratt is our community’s walking encyclopedia on public policy and on broader structural and societal issues that affect nonprofits. Besides leading Minnesota’s statewide nonprofit association, which provides services, training, and information to its 2,000-plus members, Pratt is a contributing editor at Nonprofit Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and reports. Seek his input on everything from starting a nonprofit and shaping legislation to choosing a grant-making strategy or creating a career in the sector.
President and CEO
Minnesota Philanthropy Partners
Rhodes has served nearly 10 years as president and CEO of the collaborative group of family and community foundations, donor-advised funds, and civic projects known collectively as Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. During these years, she’s created innovative ways to develop new funding to meet community needs. GiveMN, a tool that allows any donor to give money online to any nonprofit, is an example of her organization’s groundbreaking work. Rhodes is a perfect contact for discussing new philanthropic ideas and ventures. Without needing to establish their own funding apparatus, donors can work with Rhodes’ diverse and skilled staff to create customized grant programs at a large or smaller scale.
Springboard for the Arts
Zabel believes that artists operate like small-businesspeople and that they can both make a living and animate their communities if they have access to contacts, services, skills, and information. Springboard for the Arts is a hub and incubator that provides these things for artists, and it’s attracting local and national attention for its imaginative and effective work. Evidence of national interest in Springboard: Zabel spoke at this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival and works with groups to replicate Springboard’s programs in other states. Count on Zabel to know what’s happening in our local artists’ community and to be open to new projects and new ideas.