Off-The-Cuff

Is humid July here already? June 3 marked my 15th anniversary as editor of southern Minnesota’s first and only locally owned business magazine.

So I have had fun scribbling since 1996. This issue, I will be reviewing some of our favorite cover story interview memories over the years—from my perspective. Buckle your seat belts and away we go…

We debuted our current cover story format in September 1996 by featuring U.S. Reps. David Minge and Gil Gutknecht. What I remember best was Gutknecht showing up wearing a polo shirt and khaki shorts. He had just huffed the North Mankato Fun Days parade. With his aide’s permission, we photographed his mug and digitally covered over his polo shirt with a suit and tie—the only time we have so altered a cover photograph….

In November 1996, we featured Glen Taylor. About halfway through the interview, my right eye began twitching involuntarily. This was my second cover story interview, it was with THE Glen Taylor, and I was a bit nervous. To his credit, Taylor noticed the twitch and through his facial expressions and other nonverbal communication showed genuine empathy. That’s what I remember most. As an aside, that particular issue put Connect Business Magazine squarely on the financial map. Within two weeks of publication, we picked up ten new advertising partners. Thank you, Mr. Taylor….

Gary Hopfinspirger of North Mankato, who in November 1997 owned 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, expressed his appreciation and downright astonishment at the time for being chosen for the cover—more so than anyone in our 17-year history….

By far, the late Bill Bresnan, a South Central College graduate, Madison Lake native, and a U.S. cable television great, offered up the best-ever cover interview in terms of documenting history. We interviewed him in 2000 at his sister’s West Mankato home. Years later, the Denver-based U.S. Cable Hall of Fame requested a copy of this interview for Bresnan’s 2010 induction ceremony. Bresnan sold Bresnan Communications for a whopping $3.1 billion in 2002….


Mary Ellen Domeier of New Ulm, a former Minnesota Bankers Association president and Federal Reserve advisor, ended up gracing two covers, March 1997 (along with community sparkplug Denny Warta) and May 2004. Interviewing her was a delight. To those who know her, I don’t need to say more….

In my 15 years at Connect Business Magazine, I have felt intellectually in over my head during an interview only once—for our September 2004 cover flash-splash with Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Say what you will about his right-lane politics and spendthrift nature, but after he and I spent 40 minutes mano-a-mano, I needed perhaps another 40 minutes just to mentally catch up. The former governor—and now an announced 2012 Presidential candidate—must have had a dozen restless hamsters spinning in his mind that day….

Perhaps my most surreal interview occurred January 2002 while featuring Deb Flemming, former editor of The Free Press. She knew her business. It felt weird as editor interviewing an editor. But one thing I do know: If ever in a bloody knife fight over First Amendment rights, I want Flemming on my side….

Another surreal interview occurred with flamboyant Brad Buscher of Bankers American Capital Corp. (May 2010). In all my life—I swear—I had never before interviewed anyone that had collected 5,000 bottles of the world’s best wine. Kept safe in a former Mankato bank vault. Meticulously chilled. Sniffed, swished, gurgled, sipped, but never gulped like beer….

By far the most work I have invested for a cover was in July 2007 for New Ulm-bred and -buttered Flip Schulke, who in his snapping heyday was America’s greatest freelance magazine photographer. His photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali are the stuff of legend and part of American history. However, what Schulke uttered off-the-record was far more interesting—believe me. I had to make two trips to Mayo Clinic and negotiate with an assistant and beg like a beagle to nail down the information for that piece….
Two of the more “real” and open people I have interviewed over the years: Jennifer Pfeffer of Pathstone Living (Mankato) and Tom Rosen of $2.5 billion Rosen’s Diversified (Fairmont)….

The most journalistic fun I have had was with Sir Henry Wellcome, former Garden City resident and founder of Great Britain’s $20 billion Wellcome Trust. He was billed as south-central Minnesota’s greatest businessperson ever. I “interviewed” him posthumously in 2009. It certainly felt strange asking and answering all the questions, but I received lots of positive reader feedback….

I wish I had enough space to talk smart about all 80-plus people interviewed since that first 1996 cover story, but I don’t….

Daniel Vance

Daniel Vance

A former Editor of Connect Business Magazine

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