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Renovations, deck bring The Oaks to a new level

Dave Baker, owner of The Oaks at Eagle Creek, inspects the site on the restaurant's east side where a new 1,000-square-foot deck is being built for outdoor dining and special events. Contractors for the project include Duininck Concrete, West Central Steel and Perkins Lumber. Tribune photo by Anne Polta

WILLMAR -- Dave Baker is hoping for big things from the newest improvement at The Oaks at Eagle Creek -- a 1,000-square-foot deck that expands dining and parties to an outdoor setting.

"We're hoping the deck brings a whole different clientele out here. We want to appeal to more of a cross-section," said Baker, the owner of The Oaks.

Construction will be completed in mid-June. A grand opening is planned at the end of June.

Perched on the east side of the restaurant, the large elevated deck commands an impressive view of Willmar Lake and of the rolling wooded greens of the Eagle Creek golf course. It will be able to seat 70 to 80 people.

Baker has wanted to add a deck ever since taking over what was formerly the Blue Heron on the Green restaurant.

"It's been something I've been dreaming about since the day I bought the place," he said.

Besides giving patrons an outdoor spot to enjoy a meal, the deck will add another option for wedding receptions, parties and other special events at The Oaks. The space is large enough not only for several dozen umbrella-shaded tables but also for a charcoal grill and portable bar, Baker said.

He hopes it will help draw more golf events as well at the surrounding privately owned 18-hole course. The Eagle Creek Golf Club has chipped in to help with the $55,000 cost of building the deck.

Baker, who also owns the popular Melvin's on the Lake in Spicer, bought and renamed The Oaks in September 2008. The new deck is the latest in a series of improvements being undertaken to refurbish the restaurant and enhance its ability to host special events.

One of the first undertakings was to renovate the event center and add new kitchen equipment in the fall and winter of 2008-09, Baker said.

This past winter the main dining room was completely redone, from the flooring to the light fixtures.

"We're just trying to make it nicer," Baker said.

The final project, once the deck is complete, is to renovate the bar this coming winter, he said.

He also has invested in catering equipment and two new beverage carts.

In the months since buying The Oaks, there have been some uphill battles, Baker said. The purchase was finalized at the same time as the recession began to take hold in the local economy. Road construction and detours last summer near the golf course created more woes.

"We bought at a tough time," Baker said. "But we've been trying to carefully take this to a stronger place. It's taught me the last 18 months how to really run a business."

Baker sees great potential for The Oaks to become a favored place for local casual dining, weddings and other special events.

"The space up here is phenomenal," he said. "I think the deck is going to change the image of the club."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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