Longtime entrepreneur Dan Shimek dies at age 65

Long-time entrepreneur Dan Shimek died at age 65 on Friday after a long battle with cancer. Shimek founded a number of area businesses including the Outdoor GreatRoom in Eagan, Enjoy! restaurant in Apple Valley and former Heat-N-Glo in Burnsville. (File photo)

Longtime entrepreneur Dan Shimek died at age 65 on Friday after a long battle with cancer. Shimek founded a number of area businesses including the Outdoor GreatRoom in Eagan, Enjoy! restaurant in Apple Valley and former Heat-N-Glo in Burnsville. (File photo)

Longtime entrepreneur Dan Shimek died on Friday after battling cancer for more than a year. He was 65.

Shimek left his mark on a number of communities as a business owner and philanthropist.

“He was a pioneer in our community,” Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland said. “His light will continue to burn brightly in our community.”

Seeing promise in Apple Valley’s Central Village, Shimek and his wife, Kay, opened Enjoy! restaurant in 2004 at 15435 Founders Lane. The district was envisioned as a thriving downtown area, but by 2008 it was filled with empty storefronts and undeveloped lots due to the recession. A savvy businessman, Shimek was able to beat the tide. Three years later, the restaurant’s future became brighter as Central Village rebounded.

In August, the couple temporarily closed Enjoy! and sold the restaurant to Twin Cities restaurateur Bob Tinsley, who plans to reopen it under the name Vivo.

At the time, the couple said they sold the restaurant to “simplify our program.”

Hamann-Roland described Shimek as an ethical businessman who treated his employees like family.

Shimek’s generosity extended far beyond the restaurant. An advocate of public education, the Apple Valley resident generously contributed to Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools — the school district his own four children attended.

When a devastating tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004, Shimek helped fund reconstruction efforts — namely a school —  in one of the island nation’s villages. A school named after Shimek stands as a lasting reminder of his passion for helping others.

One year later Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and Shimek and his family again extended a helping hand.

“They are incredibly wonderful stewards of the community and the world,” Hamann-Roland said.

Shimek’s entrepreneurial spirit extended well beyond Apple Valley’s borders.

His first venture was Heat-N-Glo, which he founded in Burnsville in 1975 with his brother, Ron Shimek, who died in 2002.

Shimek stayed on as president after the company merged in 1996 with Heatilator to form Hearth and Home Technologies in Lakeville.

He retired in 2002, but that was short-lived.

Within a year he founded Eagan-based Outdoor GreatRoom Company, which designs and manufactures upscale fire pits, furniture and kitchens for outdoor living spaces.

Though Outdoor GreatRoom felt the weight of the recession, it continued to thrive with annual sales in the millions. Aiming to save money and bring business to Minnesota, Shimek moved the company’s engineering, production and manufacturing operation from overseas and Salt Lake City, Utah, to its headquarters in Eagan.

A year after opening Outdoor GreatRoom, Shimek opened Enjoy! and then Paradise Landing restaurant in Balsam Lake, Wis., and a winery called Chateau St. Croix in St. Croix Falls, Wis.

“I wasn’t good at golf, and I enjoy business and being around good innovation,” Shimek said in a 2010 interview.

Shimek didn’t run his businesses alone.

His wife and St. Paul-based Morrissey Hospitality Cos. manage their restaurant, while his niece and her husband run the winery.

Born in Ripley Township in Morrison County, Minn., Shimek was one of seven children.

Shimek died at home with his family at his side.

He is survived by his wife, Kay; and children, Jessica Shimek, Danielle (Ricky) Dhaliwal, Kent Shimek and Richelle Shimek.

A visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at White Funeral Home, 14560 Pennock Ave., Apple Valley. A funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 4030 Pilot Knob Road, Eagan. Burial will follow at Fort Ripley National Cemetery near Little Falls, Minn.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials.

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