The Unofficial History of the Minnesota Breakfast
In 1964, ten Minneapolis men wintering in Naples started getting together every Friday for breakfast. There was a lot to discuss that winter. Calvin Griffith’s Twins had a good season in ’63, winning 90 games behind hitters Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva. President Lyndon Johnson announced his “War on Poverty.” The Beatles rocked America with their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston.
The late Al Leonard is considered our club’s founder; he organized the list and got the restaurant at the Edgewater Beach Hotel to be our clubhouse. Then, we moved to the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, and stayed there for five decades until that was sold in 2020. We survived Covid by holding our meetings online. That worked quite well, but we are social animals meant to meet in person.
Stalwart early members include names many of you will recognize: Heinie Albrecht, Art Bredesen, Bob Diercks, Paul Foss, Les Malkerson, Fred Herfurth, and Bob Gisselbeck.
At the time of Al Leonard’s passing, Bob Bennett agreed to keep the roster and locate interesting speakers. You could count on seeing Bob’s 1936 Ford at 7:00 a.m. in front of the hotel every Friday, and he would be standing at the door greeting, collecting money, passing out name tags, and taking new names and address changes. Since then, the leadership has passed to Gordy Alexander, then to Art Klobe. Like most of our leaders, Art was overqualified for the post. The youngest bird colonel in WWII at age 34, Art reported directly to General Omar Bradley and helped plan the Normandy invasion. When Art passed away, the reins were passed to Gene Frey. Gene recently turned to Mike Schumann and appointed a cabinet to help with the important but laborious behind-the-scenes work.
Tim Pawlenty spoke here each of the eight years he served as Governor of Minnesota. Governor Walz is a regular. Bud Grant (three times), Amy Klobuchar (twice), and R.T. Rybak, Mike Zimmer, Glen Taylor, Mike Veeck, General Joe Votel, Commander, United States Central Command, Denis McDonough, Chief of Staff to President Obama, and the CEOs of Cargill, 3M, Ecolab, Wells Fargo, US Bank, and the Mayo Clinic. We aim for a mix of people you’d like to hear from in business, sports and politics.
You should know that regardless of how famous or important they are, our speakers do not receive an honorarium. (For Ole and Sven, that means they don’t get paid.) Only two rules: You can’t be trying to sell us something, and you can’t be running for political office.
Just let us know if you are even thinking about attending
As you can imagine, with speakers like these, attendance in recent years has been climbing. We average 200 attendees every Friday. (Both Bud Grant and Tim Pawlenty hold the attendance record.) A wide variation in attendance, however, drove our breakfast staff crazy. So, in 2013, Mike Schumann invented the world’s most casual reservation system. On Tuesday, an email tells members who the speaker is and asks you if you are “thinking” about coming. That’s all. Gene Frey said it would never work. The caterers said it would never work. The “system” if we dare call it that, has proven to be over 90% accurate which is close enough if you are serving scrambled eggs. (So, please continue to respond to that Tuesday email. And feel free to bring your spouse, visitors, kids, or grandkids. Just tell us how many are coming.)
A Financial Report, Unaudited
You pay the at the door for breakfast. We sell ads in this directory. Thank you, sponsors! If there’s a shortfall, we pass the hat at the final March meeting. If there’s a surplus, we subsidize breakfast until it’s spent.
A Club for Thrifty Scandinavians
There are no dues or rules. Perhaps that’s why membership has grown to over 1,300. Of course, our demographics work to our disadvantage. Each year, several of us “move on.” If you know a member who has moved on, please let us know so we can correct the roster. Email any changes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
7:15 a.m. Every Friday, from mid-January until the end of March.
We guarantee you’ll reconnect with someone you know from Minnesota. You’ll walk out by 9:00 a.m. feeling a lot smarter and better informed – and you’ll still have a full day of Florida sunshine ahead of you. We remain extremely grateful to all those who kept this club going for 60 years.
And we’re glad you are now a part of this story.