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Zorbaz brings a little flair and a 'buy local' message to shores of Green Lake, Minn.

Aarron Loken prepares one of the first pizzas ordered during the Jan. 16 grand opening of Zorbaz, the new pizza and Mexican eatery on Green Lake in Spicer. Tribune photo by Gary Miller1 / 2
Connie Simmons, left, and Ruth Trageser, both of Spicer, were among the first customers at the restaurtant, which operates from the former Melvin's building. Tribune photo by Gary Miller2 / 2

There's fresh paint inside and out, and a new bar has been built. But a quick look around will tell you that the new Zorbaz on Green Lake still has some things in common with its former incarnation as Melvin's on the Lake.

"We reused what we could," said manager Scott Sc-hulte as he looked around the dining room of the Spicer restaurant. "If it's not broke, why fix it?" Zorbaz opened at the Spicer location a week ago.

Zorbaz is using the same tables and chairs in the dining room with shiny new finishes on the tabletops. Carpeting was removed from the dining room to expose the original hardwood floors, which were sanded and refinished.

Wood beams in the bar ceiling are also original. They were taken down, and the blue and yellow paint on them was stripped off. After refinishing, they were replaced on the ceiling.

Some new is mixed in with the old.

Floors that were in poor condition were replaced. And the building needed new windows for energy efficiency and warmth, Schulte said.

An expanded bar is straight ahead when walking in the main door. "The bar is kind of the epicenter for everything," he said. The bar was built using corrugated metal on the sides and a diamond pattern metal covered with clear resin on top.

Two former smaller dining rooms have become a clothing shop and a game room. The business is family friendly during the day and early evening but open only to people 21 and older after 10 p.m., Schulte said.

"Our clothing line has exploded in the last few years," Schulte said. All of the T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps in the room are made in Detroit Lakes, and that makes them popular with people who like the idea of buying local, he added.

Schulte said Zorbaz buys and hires locally as much as possible.

Most of the materials for the remodeling were purchased in the Spicer area, and the restaurant purchases its supplies locally, too. What the company can't buy in this area, it tries to buy in Minnesota, Schulte said.

Even about a quarter of the bar's 36 tap beers are brewed in Minnesota.

The back room is now a DJ bar that has been refit and refinished, Schulte said.

He still plans to redo the outdoor gazebo bar before summer.

The new Zorbaz will be more casual than the old Melvin's, with patrons ordering at the bar and having their food delivered to their tables.

The décor is fun to see. There's a front grill of a vintage Cadillac sticking out of one wall, and a Polaris Star Car, an Indy car once made in Minnesota, hangs off the wall in the dining room. A vintage snowmobile is mounted above the beach entrance by the bar.

"We're an easygoing fun place to bring a family," Schulte said.

Schulte moved to Spicer from Grand Rapids, and some management employees from the company's other nine locations have moved here to help open the restaurant. They will train local people to take over for them before they leave.

So far, Zorbaz has hired 25 local people, and the number is expected to be as high as 70 during the summer months.

Schulte, 29, was raised in Fargo, N.D., but has grandparents from Grove City and Kerkhoven. Since moving here, he said, he's gotten together with a number of relatives. He has worked for Zorbaz since he was 14.

Zorbaz has a love affair with the letter "Z." Schulte's nametag reads Zcott. Signs in the restaurant say, "Pleaze eat rezponzibly." The sign on the wall below a moose head: "Mooze."

There are S's in the building, like in brand name signs, but it can be difficult to find them otherwise.

The restaurant specializes in pizza and Mexican food. No burgers. No fries. Schulte said that hadn't been an issue for customers in the restaurant's first week.

All of the Zorbaz locations are on lakes, mostly in central and northern Minnesota. The company specializes in taking closed or struggling restaurants and turning them around, Schulte said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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