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News from the week of December 7, 2005


China trip is impressive experience

It was a whirlwind trip to the other side of the world, and one that Tracy Area High School senior David Schiller isn’t soon to forget.

Schiller, the son of Ken and Colleen Schiller, recently returned from a trip to China, where he was one of seven student ambassadors to accompany Gov. Tim Pawlenty on a state trade mission.

The goal of Schiller and the other students was to gather information for a website about China that is accessible to students and teachers statewide. Schiller’s focus was on the environment.

There were about 14 people in Schiller’s environmental group. These were the people Schiller spent the most time with, along with the other student ambassadors. He also got to know many others in the delegation.

“By the end, everyone was like a big family,” he said. He said the adults in the group really took the students under their wing, and made a point to look after them.

“I was really happy with how everyone was so open with everyone else,” he said, adding that the closeness of the group reminded him of his trip to Washington, D.C. with the Tracy Community Band.

Most of Schiller’s time was spent in meetings, researching the environment, and preparing journal entries and videos for the website. He and the other students spent every possible moment—whether it was in the hotel room or on a bus—working on the project.

It wasn’t all work and no play. The group did have the opportunity to do some sightseeing.

The group, which totaled more than 200 people, first traveled to Beijing. The first day, they had the opportunity to visit the Great Hall of the People and the Great Wall of China.

Schiller said the Great Wall was impressive, if incredibly busy. Because it was so busy, he did not walk all the way up, but did make it to the second tower.

While in Beijing, he also had the opportunity to visit the Forbidden City, China’s imperial palace. Schiller said he didn’t think the Forbidden City was as big as it was, until it took them three-and-a-half hours to walk through.

“It was neat to think about how long it’s been there,” he said of the impressive complex of buildings, which dates to the 1400s. Schiller said he was surprised while on the tour that there was no litter anywhere.

Another fun trip was more reminiscent of home—a trip to a Chinese Dairy Queen with Gov. Pawlenty. The ice cream was good, but Schiller wasn’t sure what he thought of the green tea-flavored Blizzard.

Another evening, the group was treated to a street festival, complete with artists, food, and other tastes of the Chinese culture.

On the last day in Beijing, Schiller had the opportunity to visit a school. Schiller was impressed at the students’ knowledge of English, which is a major point of concentration for the students.

Next the delegation was off to Shanghai. On the plane trip there, the Governor and First Lady were seated directly behind Schiller on the plane, and he had the opportunity to visit with them before the flight.

Most of Shanghai was very modern, but Schiller was able to find some more old-fashioned areas, which were more like what Schiller had expected to see.

While in Shanghai, Schiller had the opportunity to see the second tallest building in Asia, and Shanghai Harbor.

Also in Shanghai, Schiller had the opportunity to visit a waste treatment plant.

From Shanghai, it was off to Hong Kong—with a bit of a delay. The group’s flight was delayed for several hours, but eventually they made it there.

In Hong Kong, the hotel was what Schiller described as one of the nicest he has ever seen—or probably will ever see. While the city was beautiful, it was evident that air quality was not the best. Soot and dust often built up on windows, and crept into hotel rooms even when no one was staying there.

Hong Kong had many beautiful aspects too, including the harbor, which was even more picturesque at night.

On the last day of the trip, Schiller visited a sewage treatment in Hong Kong.

Schiller, who plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, said visiting the treatment plants was interesting, and he enjoyed being able to see the mechanical workings of the plants.

Schiller was impressed with all of the cities he visited, and noted the unique architecture that was all around. There was also a great deal of construction going on everywhere.

While he acknowledges that he got to see the best side of Chinese life for the most part, Schiller said he has an improved view of China following the trip.

“My perception of China was better coming back than it was going,” he said.

For the most part, Schiller’s work is done for the website. There are plans in the works to get the student ambassadors back together. It is also hoped that the entire group will be reunited to celebrate the Chinese New Year.


Marlene Buck is seeking community-minded buyer

Marlene Buck is proud of her Four Seasons’ women’s clothing store.

“It’s a good business. We draw customers from a long ways.”

But after more than 40 years in retailing, and more than 20 as a business owner, the veteran Tracy merchant is ready for new adventures.

“It’s time to turn the store over to someone with new ideas and new energy,” Buck says.

The store has been put up for sale. Buck hopes that she can find a buyer who is community minded, likes being around people, and enjoys clothing fashions.

“It would be very easy for someone to come in here and take over,” Buck said. “It’s a turnkey operation.”

The store caters to customers seeking both quality and value, she said. Tribal, Koret, Karen Hart, Alfred Donner, Artisans, Splendor, Non-Fiction, and Southern Lady are some of the store’s major apparel brands. The store’s children’s department specializes in Carter’s. Jubilee, and g. wiz are the two main shoe lines. The lingerie department carries Hanes, Shadowline, and Lorraine

“It fills a need. There aren’t many good-quality women’s fashion shops like this anymore.”

• • •

Buck founded Four Seasons with her late husband, Al, in 1983. They decided to open the store after J.C. Penney’s announced plans to close its Tracy store. Marlene had worked at Penney’s for more than 20 years and felt that a Tracy department store could still do well. The new Four Seasons store offered men’s, women, and children’s clothing and shoes, plus domestics like bedding and towels.

After Al’s death in 1994, Marlene continued operating the store on her own. In 1998, she made the store smaller by eliminating the men’s and domestics department, and moving to the Box Car Business Center.

The store, Buck said, has done well, but now she feels the business could benefit from “new blood.”

“There are a lot of new things that could be done. But I’d like to move on to something else.” She doesn’t want to simply have a “going out of business” sale and liquidate her inventory, she said, because many customers would miss the store.

“There are a lot of good things in Tracy, and the store is a good draw,” Buck said.

She invites anyone who would like to learn more about Four Seasons to call her at 629-4315 or to stop by the store.


Three homes featured in AFS holiday tour

Three Tracy homes are on this year’s AFS Tour of Homes, set for Sunday, Dec. 11.

Featured are the Dan and Leslie Anderson, Dean and Kari Beierman, and Tami Schons homes.

Dan and Leslie Anderson

The Andersons live in a new, two-story home located right across from Tracy Area High School. The home was built by North Star Homes, the construction company that Dan is president of.

The Andersons have six children: Tyler, Spencer, Keller, Brianna, and twins Hunter and Parker. Leslie, a stay-at-home mom, especially likes the sunroom, the cream-colored woodwork, and the kitchen cabinets. The kitchen island is a favorite gathering spot for guests when they come to visit.

During the Christmas season, Leslie enjoys decorating the house with many lights, Christmas trees and greens. The Andersons love going home for Christmas and spending time with Dan and Leslie’s families. The children especially look forward to spending the holidays with their cousins.

Dean and Kari Beierman

The Beiermans’ home was built in the 1920s. The two-story, four-bedroom home’s most noticeable feature is the woodwork. The hardwood floors are new, but the rest of the woodwork is original.

Kati loves the beautiful fireplace and the warm feeling of her home. The Christmas season finds her busy decorating inside the house with many lights and Dean busy doing the same outside the house. This may be the last year that they will be decorating their home because it is for sale.

Dean works for MDI and Kari works at Minnwest Bank South. The couple has five children: Matt, Ben and Brienna, who are all attending college, and Lexi and Andy who are still at home.

Christmas Eve finds the Beiermans opening gifts while Lexi plays Christmas carols on the piano, and later celebrating with Dean’s mom. They spend Christmas day with Kari’s family.

Tami Schons

The Schons family lives in a five-bedroom home built in 1999 by OWL Construction of Tracy. One special feature is the pitches of the vaulted ceiling in the living room, which were difficult to plan, but worth the effort.

Tami especially likes how the kitchen overlooks the living room. She enjoys decorating her home with the many Christmas decorations she has accumulated over the years. Many of them adorn the various Christmas trees stationed throughout the home.

Tami co-owns and operates Tracy Floral with her twin sister, Pam Cooreman.

On Christmas Eve, the Schons family gathers together to open Christmas gifts and then on Christmas day, prepares a special Christmas dinner for people who are alone for the holidays.

The Tour of Homes will be held Sunday from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 and available at John’s Drug, Minnwest Bank South, Tracy Food Pride, and the Brockway-Brown Vet Clinic. Proceeds from the event benefit the Tracy AFS program.

'06 opening likely for Shetek Bend

Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill likely won’t open until after Jan. 1.

“We probably aren’t going to make a New Year’s Eve opening,” Robert Gervais said Friday. Gervais is one of the partners in Shetek Bend, a new sports bar and banquet facility planned in the former Tracy Minntronix building. Gervais wouldn’t rule out a pre-Jan. 1 opening, but said it was “probably not likely.”

Remodeling for Shetek Bend began in September. At that time, it was hoped that Shetek Bend could open by Dec. 15. But Gervais said that some delays had been encountered. For example, he said, Shetek Bend is waiting for the arrival of some equipment. He noted also that the remodeling is partly reliant upon “sweat equity” provided by investors. Sometimes construction has had to wait while partners get work done for their regular jobs.

As of last week, Gervais said that remodeling work in the new bar area is about 50% complete. Renovations in the ballroom are about 20% in place.

Interest in Shetek Bend’s banquet facilities has been encouraging, Gervais said, with more than two-dozen events already booked for 2006. Shetek Bend will be able to serve up to 450 people.

The sports bar area will have seating for about 80.

There are about 25 investors who are involved in Shetek Bend, Gervais said. Most of the partners are local people.

Christmas Preludes

High school music department plans holiday program

The Tracy Public School music department will present the annual Christmas Preludes concert Monday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.

Holiday music will be presented by the junior and senior high choirs, and junior and senior high bands, as well as the Chamber Choir, a brass quartet, and a select women’s group. The concert’s Christmas selections will include a duet of “Silent Night” by seniors Casie Miller and Stacy LaVoy, and a solo performance of “O Holy Night” by senior Jacob Gilmore.

A number of area adults will be joining the high school choir for a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus, and the program will conclude with the high school band inviting the audience to join in a holiday sing-along.

There is no admission charge.

EDA gets no offers on vacant Third St. building

The Downtown Tracy building that once housed Stassen Photography remains for sale.

The Tracy Economic Development Authority (EDA) sought to sell the 130 Third St. building last week through a sealed bid process. But no bids were submitted.

Robert Gervais, Tracy economic development director, told Tracy Economic Development Authority members Friday that he was “shocked” at the lack of bids.

The EDA set $3,000 as the minimum price that would be accepted. Bidders were required to submit a plan for establishing a business in the building, and describe what improvements were planned.

The EDA purchased the Third St. for $2,500 at an auction of tax-forfeited real estate in September. Gervais subsequently reported that several parties were interested in the property. The EDA decided to seek sealed bids as a way to sell the property. Wednesday, Nov. 30, was the deadline for submitting bids.

EDA members said they would make another push to sell the property after Jan. 1.

“We aren’t going to give up,” said EDA member Bill Chukuske.