Vortex facility has ties to popular frozen treats

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021

JonnyPops brand started by St. Olaf students

The owner of a cold storage facility that will be built in Albert Lea this year shares the corporate address of a trendy and expanding line of Twin Cities-based frozen treats.

Vortex Storage and JonnyPops are both registered as limited liability companies, or LLCs, with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office. Additionally, they’re both housed at 3600 Alabama Ave. S. in St. Louis Park, according to standard filings with the state.

Work will begin at the intersection of East 14th Street and Margaretha Avenue in the ALEDA Industrial Park in the spring. Vortex Cold Storage will house 170,000 square feet of cold (ranging from 40 to minus 20 degrees) storage.

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The facility will also provide a secure gated yard and trailer storage.

Work in Albert Lea is scheduled to be completed before the end of the year.

Thomas Erik Brust is listed as the registered agent and manager for JonnyPops. Erik Brust is one of the founders of the “smoothie on a stick” and its current CEO. Thomas Brust, his father, is on the JonnyPops board of directors. Its incorporation dates to 2011.

Electronic paperwork for Vortex Storage, filed just in September, doesn’t list an agent or manager.

When asked about plans for the Albert Lea site and if JonnyPops would be distributed from the local facility, a spokesperson was not specific.

“Thanks so much for your interest,” said Angela McKeand, chief marketing officer for JonnyPops. “However it is against our policy to comment on our supply chain and/or supply chain partnerships.”

JonnyPops was founded by Erik Brust and college friends from St. Olaf in Northfield. The all-natural popsicles include inspiring messages printed on the treats’ sticks. The name and messaging are inspired by a relative and friend who died of a drug overdose.

Brust, JonnyPops CEO, and co-founder Connor Wray, JonnyPops chief financial officer, were named to Forbes 30 under 30 list of young entrepreneurs in 2018.

Brust and Wray pitched their product at fairs early on; today it can be found at Target, Costco, Sam’s Club and more.

A release announcing the construction of Vortex Storage said the facility will ease pressure on the frozen supply chain. It also touted Albert Lea’s strategic location at the intersection of interstates 90 and 35.

The Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative and the City of Albert Lea worked to lure the project. Based on projections of up to 26 new jobs and the scope of the project, the group offered Vortex several incentives, including tax-increment financing, tax abatement and a land price reduction.