Northland landmarks Dixie and Hugo’s for saleIn what they describe as a coincidence, the owners of two landmark Northland establishments — Hugo’s Bar and Grill, and the Dixie Bar and Grill — put their businesses on the market on the same day.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky , Lake County News Chronicle
In what they describe as a coincidence, the owners of two landmark Northland establishments — Hugo’s Bar and Grill, and the Dixie Bar and Grill — put their businesses on the market on the same day.
Scott and Deanna Larson of Two Harbors posted an announcement of the Dixie’s sale on Facebook the morning of Dec. 17, and Gary and Jody Hepola posted theirs later in the day. The Larsons have owned the Dixie in Two Harbors for almost seven years, and the Hepolas have run Hugo’s in Brimson - just across the line in St. Louis County - for about five years, with a year-and-a-half break when another owner took over but later handed the place back to them.
The owners say that both businesses will maintain regular services until they sell.
Dixie Bar and Grill
The Larsons said they were looking for an adventure when they decided to buy the Dixie in 2007. The bar and restaurant, about seven miles north of Two Harbors on Highway 2, had been open for an estimated 50 years. It was the first business venture for the couple.
Deanna Larson started her food service career at Miller’s Cafe in Two Harbors when she was 14 years old and worked her way through many restaurants, gaining knowledge that was invaluable to their later venture. She said they worked hard to transform the run-down building into a business of which they could be proud. After many renovations and the addition of a bottle shop, the Dixie is a regular gathering place for locals.
“Building up a strong local customer base was a huge success for us. Maintaining our locals is what we’re most proud of,” Deanna said.
She said Scott will keep his job at the school district and when, or if, the Dixie sells, she’ll find something to occupy her time. In the interim, the Larsons will continue running the business as usual and are in no hurry to say goodbye.
“We’ve had a ton of excellent employees and customers,” Deanna said. “If we do sell, we sell. If we don’t, it’s OK.”
Larry Peterson at Century 21 is handling the sale for the Larsons.
Hugo’s Bar and Grill
Sitting at the corner of Highway 44 and Two Harbors-Brimson Road, Hugo’s is an area institution. The bar and general store provide necessities for locals and visitors alike, selling everything from matches and pantry staples to liquor. It has been the mecca of activity for the far-flung community for more than 50 years.
Jody and Gary Hepola took over in 2008. Before the purchase, Jody was a bartender at Hugo’s. When the owner put the place up for sale, she and her husband dove in.
“It was definitely a distressed property,” she said, noting they worked hard to improve the bar and make it family-friendly.
“We want people to be able to come in with their grandkids and have pizza and ice cream during the day,” she said. But they still wanted to maintain the fun bar atmosphere in the evenings.
To that end, they turned Hugo’s into something of a community center, offering classes, potlucks and a farmers market during the day and selling strong beer and fried food in the evenings. They also renovated the premises and added a fryer in the kitchen and a bottle shop.
“It is like a big family,” she said. “We’ll miss the people. We’ve made a lot of good friends.”
Jody said they don’t know what’s next, but hopes it will involve spending winters someplace warm.
“We don’t know where we’re going to go, so we’re not in any hurry to get there,” she said.
Ruth Rabold at Century 21 is handling the sale.