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‘Historic 313’ building to be rehabbed for brewhouse, restaurant in downtown Willmar

Plans for a brewhouse, restaurant, wine bar and lunch area were shown to the public during an open house Tuesday at the historic art deco building purchased by Willmar Downtown Development (formerly Willmar Design Center) and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. The partners bought the building from the neighboring Barn Theatre, which had used the building for prop storage. (Tribune photo by David Little)

WILLMAR — Liv Fuchs says she and her husband, Ryan, and her brother Stevin Carlson can’t wait to start brewing craft beer, and Mike Kinney is eager to start cooking meals prepared with locally produced food.

These ambitious individuals are hoping to get their brewhouse and restaurant businesses started in an historic downtown building that was purchased last month by the partnership of Willmar Downtown Development (formerly Willmar Design Center) and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

The partners have named the art deco building Historic 313 on Fourth Street and say they are working to bring about a brighter future for the building and for downtown Willmar.

The building, which once housed a drug store and jewelry store, was owned by the neighboring Barn Theatre for prop storage. The partnership bought the building from the Barn on May 30.

Now that much of the stuff has been removed, the partners opened the doors during a two-hour open house Tuesday to let the public see plans for the brewery, restaurant, wine bar and kitchen.

Doug Gasek, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, told about 75 people that this is the Alliance’s first “Fix-It’’ project in Minnesota. Fix-It was announced about four to five months ago and invests in rehabilitating and preserving historic housing and commercial property.

Gasek said Willmar Downtown Development coordinator Beverly Dougherty suggested the project to him. Gasek said he was “sold’’ after Dougherty said it involved a great building, craft beer and local foods.

Gasek said the project fits with Minnesota Main Street’s mission, which has created more than 65 businesses in six cities.

“We’re excited to be involved in developing new businesses in this building,’’ he said. “I can’t wait to see the rehab. I can’t wait to see you all come back with the beer, with wine, with food celebrating this great success.’’

Andy Engan, an architect with Engan Associates of Willmar, explained the project proposes potential outdoor seating for 20 on Fourth Street. Inside, the 8,000-square-foot space will have 28 seats in a take-out lunch area, and seating for 70 in a separate restaurant and wine bar.

Walled off from the restaurant will be the proposed Foxhole Brewhouse with seating for 81. The brewery will serve beers by the glass and by the growler (64-ounce bottle). State law prohibits bringing beer from the brewhouse into the restaurant.

The kitchen will be an incubator for cooking and preparing locally produced meat and produce. Locally produced foods will also be offered for sale.

Liv Fuchs said their brewing equipment has been ordered. She said her husband has brewed beer for three to four years at home and she said everyone wants to buy it. She said they are just waiting for the partnership to get the space ready for them to move in.

“We are very excited for it just to get going,’’ she said. “We can’t wait to get in and get working on getting our beers set up for Willmar.’’

Their goal is to open by fall. Hours will be 4-10 p.m. three to four days a week, serving a wide variety including lighter beers to hoppy double-India pale ales, porters, stouts and her husband’s famous rhubarb wheat beer.

Chef and wine bar operator Mike Kinney said a name for the restaurant has not been selected. He said the menu will be based on local foods, produce and meats to the greatest extent possible.

Kinney said the food scene in Willmar “is not necessarily the most exciting thing in cooking’’ until he heard about the project from Dougherty. Kinney said it will be a great opportunity to work with and enhance other businesses.

“I’m very excited about this,’’ he said. “That’s the idea is to have local foods being used in a restaurant that isn’t a chain and is something different from what you can find around here.’’

Businessman Don Williamson, chairman of Willmar Downtown Development’s fundraising committee, said they hope to raise $205,000 for roof replacement and infrastructure. He said the campaign has already raised $28,000 to $30,000.

Williamson said the Design Center changed its name because the mission focuses on creating value in the city and region.

“As we elevate the value of downtown Willmar, we elevate the whole community,’’ he said. “It’s the town I remember growing up in. Will it be what it was? No. It can be better. And that’s what we’re all here to see accomplished.’’

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150