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Hawley family's lefse store turns into digital TV antenna factory

Steve Knutson shows off the types of antennae available at Antenna Logic, which is temporarily being run out of Carl's Lefse in Hawley. Knutson has been helping people with the conversion to digital TV. (Carrie Snyder/The Forum)1 / 3
A shelf holds boxes of digital TV converters inside Carl's Lefse in Hawley, Minn. Steve Knutson not only makes lefse, but has been working with people helping with the conversion to digital TV. (Carrie Snyder/The Forum)2 / 3
The production tables that usually are for lefse-making at Carl's Lefse in Hawley are being used for antenna assembly for Antenna Logic. (Carrie Snyder/The Forum)3 / 3

HAWLEY - Lefse is Steve Knutson's make-a-living business.

Digital TV antennas are his labor-of-frustration-and-love business.

"This started out of sheer frustration. But it's really developed into a passion for me," he said.

Knutson, involved most of his life with his family's Carl's Lefse business here, opened Antenna Logic in January.

The antenna business has helped about 300 customers in Minnesota and eastern North Dakota to identify and obtain the proper size and model of digital TV antennas.

Knutson's wife, Laurie, and sons Ryan and Colby also are active in the antenna business, which is operating temporarily in the same building as Carl's Lefse.

Partially assembled antennas and boxes of antenna parts occupy space normally used to make lefse, the Scandinavian favorite.

Antenna Logic will move shortly to an adjacent building.

Carl's Lefse remains in business and continues to sell frozen lefse.

"That's right. We do both lefse and digital TV antennas," Steve Knutson said. Knutson has long made a hobby of electronics and TVs, and he's been a licensed electrician for 35 years.

He grew interested last year in the switch from analog to digital TV broadcasts.

The conversion was completed earlier this month.

"The more I tried to learn about it (the upcoming conversion), the more I realized how little information there was," he said.

He also realized that "one size antenna fits all just wasn't going to work. Every broadcast tower is in a different location. Everybody has a different location they receive signals from."

Despite his initial frustration, Knutson isn't down on digital. Just the opposite.

"People should be rejoicing (about the conversion to digital)," he said. "Try to get excited about it. It's a really good thing, once you get it over and done with it. It's an awesome picture."

Trouble is, too many people assumed incorrectly that buying a converter box for their old TV would guarantee receiving digital signals from area TV stations, Knutson said.

Blame, at least in part, the national information campaign to educate people about the digital conversion, he said.

"Things were really dumbed down," Knutson said. "They made it sound like just getting a converter box was all you needed, and that's just not true."

With the old analog signals, TVs often had imperfect but viewable reception.

With digital, TV reception is all or nothing. You either get perfect reception or you get nothing.

If you get nothing, you may need a new antenna or other component, such as a new cable, to set things right.

New antennas aren't an easy sell in many cases, Knutson said.

"People are used to an old, crappy antenna that worked for 40 years. It's hard to convince them they need a $100 antenna," he said.

Digital TV antennas that do the job for Fargo-Moorhead households typically cost about $100, Knutson said.

More-powerful antennas needed in fringe reception areas typically cost about $160, he said.

Antenna Logic's customers include Blake Easton of Fergus Falls, Minn.

Easton lives about 92 miles from the KVLY tower near Blanchard, N.D., Knutson said.

Easton said Antenna Logic has helped him get KVLY and other channels he otherwise would not receive.

Antenna Logic continues to work with area residents who have digital TV problems.

And problems do remain, given that many Americans underestimated how much preparation would be needed, Knutson said.

"People just say they wish they'd known it (the digital conversion) would be this complicated so they could have been better prepared," he said.

More information

Antenna Logic can be reached at (218) 483-3469