By Clay Schuldt
Special to the Caledonia Argus
In the midst of massive roadway construction throughout Caledonia, residents may have overlooked the reconstruction of a Main Street staple: Elsie’s Bar & Grill.
Both the interior and exterior of the business is being reconstructed from roof to floor.
Owner Elsie Rud acknowledged that the remodel was a long time coming. The change was planned since she purchased the building in August of 2007. However, the project was put on hold due to the economic recession. At one point Rud even contacted the producers of the Food Network program Restaurant: Impossible for assistance.
Unfortunately, the show was working with businesses in the southern region of the country at the time.
“I had to come up with my own Restaurant: Impossible, which consisted of a Federal Grant out of CEDA.”
The Community & Economic Development Associates (CEDA) is a consulting firm that assists with securing grants and low-interest loans for community development and economic development projects.
Using this federal grant Rud was able to kick-start the long awaited construction project. The grant is mainly for exterior construction, although some funds may be used to assist with floor and bathroom replacement.
Construction on Elsie’s began about a month ago following the Houston County Fair. The bathrooms were first in line for a makeover. Along with the bathrooms, the restaurant section was refurbished with all new carpeting and fresh paint. The dining counter was redone with a knotty pine surface and brand new stools. The kitchen has been enclosed with a new floor, and a few walls were outright eliminated to give the
restaurant a more open feel.
In addition, the restaurant walls feature new decorations. Of special interest is a new collage of photos depicting Caledonia over the last hundred years. Eagle-eyed patrons should be able to see an image from Caledonia’s past.
“I had gotten most of the pictures down at the historical society, and I used to have them framed all over,” Rud explained.
In order to save wall space all the old pictures were combined into one sign. According to Rud, the collage sign is part the new theme of the restaurant: Caledonia and the State of Minnesota. Not long after the photo collage was finished, Rud learned that her great-grandfather had a hand in constructing the building she now owns over 100 years ago.
The bar section will also see significant change. New flooring will be installed, and the bar itself will be changed into a horseshoe style bar. As with the restaurant, the bar will have its own theme: whiskey barrels. Island tables will be made from barrels purchased from Staggemeyer Stave Co.
In the future, an expansion to the kitchen is planned, which could lead to a menu expansion. Rud said that she would like to include roasted chicken on the menu.
So far the response from customers has been positive. Many people have come simply to see the changes.
“I was worried that people would not come, what with the walls and ceiling being redone,” said Rud, “but they stuck with me and I couldn’t have done it without them. The customers have turned into really good friends.”
Rud wished to thank friends and customers who helped out during the reconstruction process, including Brian Olson Construction for general contractor work, Hoskins Electric, The Floor Guys of Eitzen, Plumbing from Seven River’s Mechanical, Bobby Pass for ceiling work, Jerry Steele Painting and Paul Weichert for allowing the use of his lot during the reconstruction.
Rud praised their work saying, “All these guys were just excellent to work with.”
In addition, Rud gave a special thanks to Lee Babler for all his help micro-managing the construction project. Babler moved from Grand Forks, North Dakota to help manage the project, which allowed Rud to focus on the day-to-day business of running a bar and restaurant.
It is because of this extra assistance that Elsie’s has yet to close down due to the remodeling. During the bar remodel phase of the project a portable bar might be moved out into the restaurant for a few days. Rud did promise that upon completion – expected by early November – Elsie’s will host a grand reopening.