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Popular North Shore restaurant to close in late October

The Lighthouse at Emily's in Knife River will close in late October.( Bob King /

The Lighthouse at Emily’s, a popular stop for both locals and tourists along the North Shore, is closing in late October, according to its owners.

And it’s not because business for the Knife River restaurant has been slow.

On the contrary, business has been great as more people discover its cozy nautical décor, friendly atmosphere and creative, homemade offerings.

The owners are closing their doors because they lease the space, and the Twin Cities-based owner has decided to put the building up for sale, said Andrea Darsow, who owns the restaurant with her mother and two aunts.

“We recently made the decision not to make that investment,” Darsow said.

They have leased the space along Scenic Highway 61, about 15 miles northeast of Duluth, for three years.

The property is not listed yet, but a “for sale” sign is expected to go up Sept. 2.

While Darsow and her partners learned in July of the owner’s decision to sell the building, they recently decided not to buy the building and to close the restaurant. They are, however, open to selling the part of the business that includes the restaurant’s concept and menu.

Moving was not considered. They say they couldn’t beat their current location.

“It was a very successful location, and we had a fun and a successful three years,” Darsow said. “We decided to finish on a real positive.”

Moreover, they already had moved once before.

Darsow; her mother, Lynne Compton; and aunts Claire Pierson and Brita Aug started the Lighthouse on Homestead seven years ago. They built the lighthouse-shaped restaurant on Homestead between Scenic Highway 61 and the expressway to Two Harbors. It was a friendly neighborhood restaurant that built a loyal following. But the recession hurt business. And when they had difficulty making higher bank payments, the bank closed them down.

Three months later, they opened at the former Emily’s Eatery on Scenic 61, with a new name that paid homage to both restaurants.

They did much better at the new location that also has a small bar, drawing both local residents and travelers along the North Shore.

“It was a good fit to be in this location,” Darsow said. “We helped bring back a little bit of life to the area.”

The restaurant, along with Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse and Great Lakes Candy Kitchen across the street, created a small retail hub in Knife River.

Andy Matson, a co-owner of the candy store, was sad when he learned Lighthouse at Emily’s was closing. Both the restaurant and the candy store are family-owned and operated.

“It’s been great to have them there,” Matson said. “They’re going to be really missed. When that place is vacant, it will be a big void in the community. It’s a very fun and festive atmosphere when they’re open, especially when they have music and events. When people ask us what’s a good place for lunch, we just point over there. And they refer people to us as well.”

With no plans to open another business together, Darsow said she, her mother and aunts will miss working together. They’ll miss the customers, the restaurant’s good food and their hardworking staff that approaches 50 in the summer. But they also are looking forward to more personal time with family and new careers.

For all four of them will be looking for jobs, she said.

Will they be restaurant jobs?

“We don’t know if they will or won’t,” Darsow said, adding that they’re all pretty open to possibilities.