Turning point

Nearly a year after the death of her husband, Samantha Loesch teams up with her sister to start a new business — and direction in life

KINGFIELD — When Mark Loesch was murdered during a late-night bike ride last September, his family’s life was turned upside down.

For his wife of 16 years, Samantha Loesch, a bright, planned-out future quickly turned dark and uncertain.

“I had these hopes and dreams and plans for my life that all involved him,” Loesch said. “And my marriage and that partnership was a big part of my life’s goals and plans, and it took energy and that was my focus. And after his death I felt like I had — I needed something to focus on, some new direction for my life, in order to begin looking forward and not just remain focused on what I had lost and the past.”

Her sister Molly Hanson was also at a turning point: family upheaval after Mark’s death strained her decade-long marriage and she ended up moving back to Minnesota from Seattle and getting divorced.

About five months ago, the sisters decided to start anew with an idea they had talked about for years: opening a local wine bar that focused on their values of community, local business, environment and family, among others.

It’s planned for 46th & Grand and will be called Kings Wine Bar. They hope to open in early fall.

“What brought Samantha and I to take on this incredible and risky endeavor is that we both found ourselves in a place where our futures were either uncertain and terrifying, or ours to embrace and shape,” Hanson said.

Hanson, a mother of two, previously ran a children’s bookstore in Seattle, where she was a community activist who launched a neighborhood organization that today has more than 600 members.

Loesch, a longtime Kingfield resident and mother of four, was a stay-at-home mom.

The sisters’ plan for Kings is to create a family-run business that is environmentally friendly in its design and practices, offers a variety of wine and Midwest beers, a full menu, good music and a pleasant atmosphere. And they hope it becomes more than a wine bar.

“We really want it to be a center-of-the-community place where people feel at home and go to see familiar faces and connect with their neighbors,” Loesch said.

Their brother, Mike Barnes, will help develop the wine list, which will include several wine flights. He’s a sales representative for The Wine Company based in St. Paul.

“I will always give them as much help as they need and more,” Barnes said.

He said he first mentioned the idea of a wine bar to Loesch and Hanson years ago.

“They both in a short amount of time found themselves looking for a direction to go in,” he said. “I had mentioned this wine bar idea before and it just took off.”

He said the planned site for the wine bar, in the former Rau+Barber photo studio, is a great location because there’s nothing like it nearby.

A brief introduction of plans at a July Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KFNA) meeting was well received. KFNA Executive Director Sarah Linnes-Robinson said the group hasn’t heard a great amount of detail about the business, but she thinks it would be a great addition to the neighborhood.

“I have heard nothing but favorable response,” she said. “I believe that the neighborhood is supportive of small, vibrant commercial nodes and independent businesses.”

Loesch and Hanson are working with Chef Sarah Norton of Norton’s Restaurant and Lucky Cat Lounge in Red Wing, Minn. on the menu, which will include salads, cheese plates, pizzas, cupcakes and more.

“We were familiar with the restaurant and heard great things about them,” Loesch said.

Minneapolis-based 20 Below Studio is helping with the wine bar’s architecture and design. Seattle-based master carpenter Paul Hiraga is also part of the team, as is Minneapolis-based graphic design business Aesthetic Apparatus and Seattle music company Barsuk Records.

Loesch and Hanson plan to play vinyl records in their entirety at the wine bar. Hanson is the big music fan of the duo; Loesch is the wine connoisseur.

The sisters have submitted their building and wine and beer license applications to the city and are awaiting approval.

They hope to be open in September or October; roughly a year after Mark was killed. He left his neighborhood for a bike ride around 10 p.m. Sept. 12 and was found beaten in a nearby South Minneapolis neighborhood early the next morning. He died shortly afterward.

Donald Jackson and Jamaal Freeman, both in their early 20s, were each charged with second-degree murder in Mark’s death. Jackson pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in the case in May and agreed to testify against Freeman. Jackson will be sentenced after Freeman’s trial, which has been delayed because of an attorney switch.

Samantha Loesch said her husband would have been proud of what she and Hanson are doing.

“It would have been very important to him that I find a way to keep going and keep living,” she said. “And he would have loved it.”

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected].