The Hopper Bringing Free Rides to Craft Scene

by Felicity Bosk

An addition to Duluth’s craft industry comes in the form of a shuttle service. The Hopper will begin giving free rides between several Duluth breweries beginning February 8 and 9. 

“The ultimate goal is to connect Duluth,” said co-owner Lou Wiggen. “Ever since I went to high school here I felt there was a wall between the west side and the downtown area so we wanted to make transportation between these places really easy for the customers, safe, and fun.” 

The Hopper will be driving a one-hour loop between Lincoln Park, downtown and Canal Park with three minuet stops at several locations including Duluth Cider, Ursa Minor, Hoops, Dubh Linn, and Lake Superior Brewing. Other breweries and craft industries will tentatively be added to their route in the future. As well Wiggen would like to add a second van in order to make rides to Superior’s Earth Rider and Thirsty Pagan breweries. 

Wiggen said it’s important to him to keep this shuttle free for riders. The service fees he said are being supplemented by the breweries customers are transported to. He also stressed this is not a tour company and is not competing with Duluth Experience who shuttle customers for brewery tours. 

“We are not a taxi company, we are not a tour company, we are not a chauffeur company, we are a shuttle business,” he said. 

The soft-opening of the Hopper will take place for the Cold Front Festival February 1. They’ll be driving back and forth between the Endion Station and where the festival is taking place farther along in Canal Park.

The first month Wiggen is going to personally drive the Hopper around so he can get the best idea of what customers think, feel and have suggestions about. He said he wasn’t expecting the Hopper to take off as soon as it is but when he approached the craft breweries and cider house about the business they were excited and have helped move it along. 

They are interested in the future of driving for private events, during concerts and hockey games during the week. 

Wiggen knows that February is the slow season for starting a business like this but after talking to Hoops Brewing owner Dave Hoops, he thinks it may actually be the best time to begin shuttling. 

“We really want to cater to Duluthians. We want people from this city to use it,” he said. 

The Hopper itself is a 1997 Ford Econoline Club Wagon Wiggen purchased five hours south in Wisconsin from a camp. It fits 15 passengers. They plan to add a mural from a local artist on its sides. 

The Hopper will operate Friday’s from 5 p.m. to midnight and Saturday’s 3 p.m. to midnight.