WILLMAR - The opening of Spurs Grill & Bar in downtown Willmar took about three years longer than expected, but the wait has been worth it for owner and operator Esperanza Aydee Lopez.
"It's a dream come true," said Lopez. "I'm very excited to bring unique dishes to Willmar."
Lopez, 41, has worked in food service most of her life but this is her first venture as a restaurant owner.
Located at 313 Fourth St. S.W. in a 1937-era Art Deco building known as Historic 313 that also houses Foxhole Brewhouse, Spurs opened its doors last month in a soft opening.
A grand opening for Spurs will be held in October.
Since she opened the doors, Lopez has been adding signature dishes to the menu, including a homemade green spaghetti made with roasted poblano peppers, coconut shrimp, gyros, ceviche and a popular southwestern burger.
Many items on the menu are made from scratch and with a "twist" that "makes the food tastier," Lopez said. "We want to do things that are different."
Proximity to Foxhole, which is on the other side of the wall and can be accessed directly from Spurs, is key.
Currently, Foxhole patrons can order food at Spurs and Spurs' staff will deliver it to Foxhole.
Lopez said she intends to get a beer license to serve commercial beer on-sale. The license would also allow Foxhole patrons to bring their glasses of beer into Spurs to eat a meal.
Down the road as the business grows, Lopez said she hopes to obtain a liquor license.
Re-developing the downtown building began in 2014.
Originally a drug store and then a jewelry store, the building had been been used by The Barn Theatre for storage before it was eyed as a downtown redevelopment project.
The project involved support from several agencies, including Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, Willmar Downtown Development, Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Commission, Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, and Southwest Initiative Foundation.
The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota now owns the building and leases space to Foxhole and Spurs.
Foxhole opened in 2015.
In October of 2015, Lopez and a business partner - along with family and friends - began renovating another section of the building for Spurs.
She initially thought the restaurant would be open by March of 2016.
"But there were lots of ups and down," she said. "Sometimes I felt like it wasn't going to happen."
Because they did most of the work themselves, rather than hire contractors, the process took longer than expected. The interior of the building was stripped to the studs and slowly reconstructed.
"I just keep moving and moving and moving," Lopez said.
Aaron Backman, director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, said Spurs received assistance from the Latino Economic Development Center and the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center for the leasehold improvements for the restaurant.
"The process took longer than anticipated," Backman said, following a tour and meal at the restaurant last week for the EDC operations board.
"We're happy they're open," Backman said.
Spurs is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.