Restaurateurs place top bid for Endion Station, envision place for 'music, health, food and craft beers'A beaming Rod Raymond took a look at Ken Buehler and came to a realization after the auction of the Endion Station in Canal Park on Friday.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
A beaming Rod Raymond took a look at Ken Buehler and came to a realization after the auction of the Endion Station in Canal Park on Friday.
“Hey, Ken,” Raymond said to the director of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. “It’s looks like we’re in the railroad business together.”
Raymond was the top bidder Friday as the city auctioned off the historic Endion Station, a former depot built off London Road at 15th Avenue in the 1890s and moved 26 years ago to its spot on the Lakewalk in Canal Park.
Raymond’s fourth bid of $300,000 proved the winner, and now he and business partner Tim Nelson will work on a business plan to present to the city in the next few weeks.
Raymond said he plans to turn the historic depot into a place for “music, health, food and craft beers,” following in the footsteps of the Duluth operations he and Nelson own, including Fitger’s Brewhouse, Burrito Union and Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery.
The city will negotiate a purchase agreement for the building and the final price and planned use of the depot will go before the City Council for final approval.
Raymond doffed the rail agent’s cap Buehler brought for the occasion and the two started hatching plans on how the place might be decorated with items borrowed from the museum at the Duluth Depot.
“It’s going to be the new and the old,” Raymond said.
The auctioneer was Mark McShane, the city’s property and contract manager. He’d been showing the depot to potential bidders since the auction was announced in late August.
He said to the 20 bidders Friday before opening the auction that the station was worth “significantly more than $200,000.” He said he was happy with the final bid of $300,000.
“I’m excited about the potential,” McShane said. He had spoken to Raymond and Nelson about their plans and expects the pair to define their concept in the next few weeks.
Raymond said the sale would “conclude that magical, mystical loop for us,” referring to Fitger’s up the shore of Lake Superior from the depot and Tycoons, closer to it along East Superior Street.
Raymond spoke of the “energy” along the Lakewalk outside of Endion, repeating several times that it came from the westernmost part of the big lake.
“It garners all the energy of the lake,” he said. “We need a plaque right here. This is a magical spot.”
Raymond wouldn’t say how much he and Nelson would have bid for the depot had it gone higher. He said he expected the final price to be at least $500,000.
“Now we can spend more money remodeling it,” he said, saying the price takes a lot of risk out of the plans.
Raymond, a fitness instructor, said the Endion Station would incorporate some sort of fitness activity along with “a place of celebration,” hinting that the beer his company makes at Fitger’s would be served along with food from Tycoons, which is a short walk from Canal Park through Lake Place Park. The park has been extended to the top of the massive sewage overflow tank built next to the station.
The ale aspect would add to Duluth’s growing number of businesses selling craft beer, including the new Canal Park Brewery, going up a few hundred yards from the station.
Raymond said the potential new business would only complement the growing beer trend.
The city has owned Endion Station since it was moved in 1986. Its longest tenant was the city tourism bureau, known today as Visit Duluth. Businesses have come and gone since 2005, and the last tenant used it as an office space.
Raymond said he will take advice from anyone wanting to chime in on the finer points of his business plan.
“What do Duluthians want?” he said. “What do tourists want?”