Northwoods business owner to state leaders: ‘You better kiss me, because you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone’

A Northwoods business owner was invited to Fox News to state his case on getting Minnesota businesses open after making a video plea to state leaders on social media Friday.

In a video posted to Twitter on Friday evening, a Northwoods business owner wondered aloud if Minnesota state leaders have any common sense.

Jim ‘Red’ Knutson, owner of Jim’s Ash Trail Store in Orr, Minnesota, lamented indirectly to state leaders in the video posted on Twitter by his son, Jimmy.

Seated in his knotty pine-paneled shop, Knutson began his two-minute monologue by stating that they were getting ready for the Minnesota fishing opener.

He went on to explain, however, that the Canadian border crossing at International Falls, which is less than 30 miles away, was closed. “We can’t have any customers going across the border or coming down here, going to their cabins or going fishing,” he stated.

If you go the other way toward Voyageurs National Park, “the camping is closed,” he said. “You can’t go out and camp.”

“Are you kidding me?” Knutson exclaimed after telling viewers that they couldn’t get a burger and a beer or go out on a houseboat. 

“When we go to the mailbox, our bills are real,” Knutson said, “I’m very concerned that we’re going to have some real problems up here with businesses.” Knutston said they don’t have any people coming (for recreation), and the mines and paper mills are laying people off. “These are good people,” he said. “They want to work; they want to make a living.”

“You’ve got a better chance of being eaten by a bear or a timber wolf than you do of catching that virus,” Knutson said, in an apparent reference to camping in Voyageurs National Park, which is currently not allowed in response to the governor’s stay-at-home executive orders.

Recent Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) figures revealed that 99.24% of the state’s COVID-19 related deaths were residents of long-term care facilities or people with serious underlying conditions.

Tuesday’s MDH COVID-19 update said the total number of positive cases in the state was 12,494, with over 1,400 of them being health care workers. So far, 8,223 patients no longer need isolation and there have been 614 deaths – 501 of them in long-term care or assisted living settings.

Knutson hit his video message home by stating, “one thing you’re going to miss [is] going to be property tax money, liquor license money, tobacco, lottery, the sign license, the sewer licenses, the food licenses,” he said. “I have ‘em all, they’re gonna miss that,” in an apparent reference to government agencies in charge of capturing business taxes and licensing revenues.

Knutson then quoted a Brooks & Dunn song saying, “you better kiss me, because you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” 

Related: Over 70 MN chambers of commerce urge Gov. Walz to consider more equitable opening of all businesses

Economic data show that hunting, fishing and tourism generate significate amounts of revenue for the state of Minnesota.

According to information from December on the Dept. of Natural Resources’ website, recreation in Minnesota, including outdoor activities, is a major sector of a $15.3 billion in tourism economy in the state. 

The information on the DNR’s website was part of a news release announcing the launch of an Outdoor Recreation Task Force. That was before COVID-19.

Explore Minnesota’s website states that tourism in Minnesota is a $16 billion dollar-a-year industry, making it a “key factor” in the state’s economy. The website also says that the leisure and hospitality industry employs nearly 273,000 workers, representing 11 percent of Minnesota’s private sector employment. Leisure and hospitality also generates $1.0 billion of the state’s sales tax revenues, according to the site. And Minnesota welcomes more than 73 million domestic and international travelers annually, the agency says.

In an apparent reference to Gov. Walz and legislators at the state Capitol, Knutson wrapped up his rant by saying, “I just hope down there that you guys use some common sense,” he said. “But you know what I’m really scared about? I wonder if you have any.” 

The video has since received over 53,000 views, and Knutson was invited to appear on Fox News Channel on Sunday morning where he again made his case for opening up businesses in the state of Minnesota.

“We’ve got to get things opened up, it’s got to happen,” Knutson said on Fox. We can open up the state in a safe way, referring to changes he’s already made in his store including plexiglass dividers and touch-free policies. 

We need our governor to realize that these people up here have got everything tied up in these businesses, Knutson said. “If we go down, what’s going to happen?”


Shelley Anderson