Brothers look to make Pine Edge Inn elegant and inviting once again

(Pictured are Dave Holmgren, back, who will soon be the official owner of the Pine Edge Inn if all goes as planned. Serving as his right-hand man in the endeavor is his brother Erik. (03-31-02pinehol) Staff photo by Joyce Moran.

Dave, along with his right-hand man and brother, Erik, mark the third generation of a family in the food service business. Before owning Dick’s Broiler, their grandparents, Dick and Doris Christensen, from 1952 to 1962, owned the Dairy Way in the south side of Little Falls. They owned the Broiler then until 1974.

The young mens’ parents, John and Rachael, who had been helping at the restaurant, then turned to farming. While still engaged in farming, they returned to the food service business when they purchased several Dairy Queen stores.

Living on the family’s Randall farm, Dave and Erik became very involved in 4-H. At the Little Falls Community High School, they also stood out as active participants in choir, band and theater productions.

Following high school, Dave attended North Dakota State University in Fargo for two years, followe by a year at the School of Communications Arts in Minneapolis. Positions he has held include work at the University Radisson Hotel, Glacier National Park and WCCO Television where he was a cameraman for high school sports.

Erik, after his high school years, spent four years in the Air Force and then went on to receive an Associate Arts Degree from the Minneapolis Community College. Suffering from effects of chemicals while he served in Saudia Arabia during the Gulf War, he is classified as a disabled veteran.

“I don’t regret being in the Air Force,” related the younger brother. “I’m proud I was able to serve my country.”

Dave’s most recent venture, before taking over the Pine Edge Inn, has been that as owner and operator of the 75-year old Heights Theater and the adjoining Dairy Queen in Columbia Heights. Since taking over the theater in 1998, he and his partner have restored it to its former glory. Offerings include classic movies and, about 25 percent of the time, live events. Currently being installed at the theater is a 1929 Wurlitzer pipe organ which will be raised and lowered from below the stage.

Of the Pine Edge Inn, Dave said, “Our plans are to emphasize what’s already here. We’re carrying out what you might call ‘a sympathetic historic renovation.’ Built in ‘23 as the Elks Hotel, it originally looked like a high school. It was institutional, with a touch of elegance. Its one cohesive element is its wonderful architecture. Except for the Edge of the Ledge which was built in 1958 and has a modern Frank Lloyd Wright style, the rest of the building has a colonial period theme. We want to emphasize the original architecture. To achieve that, we plan to take off all the window covers. I want to make it open. And, can you imagine how inviting it will look at night when people go by and see the lights flickering in here, with the people enjoying themselves?”

Work being carried out presently at the Inn includes redecorating the lobby, the Ledge, the coffee shop and upgrading the kitchen. Half the hotel rooms are servicable, with the other half needing items like new carpeting or new wallpaper.

“This building needs some tender, loving care,” explained David. “It wants to be pretty and elegant again. After all, it does have great bones.”

With his purchase, Dave recognizes he has a responsibility. “We’re from here,” he said. “When you have a property like this, you have a responsibility to maintain it appropriately, to respect its heritage and history. And, more importantly, to present it in an appropriate fashion. There are other nice places to eat in the county. But, when you want to take your grandparents to a really special place, you’re going to want to take them to the Pine Edge. I can’t imagine Little Falls without the Pine Edge.”

Agreeing, Erik added, “It’s an integral part of Central Minnesota.”

The Holmgrens hope to start serving food, on a limited basis, in early May. “We’ll keep it simple at first. You don’t want to offer more than you can deliver. And, while we may not have experience in full-service dining, we know good service,” said Dave. “People will come back if your service is good. A place might have good food, but, if the service is bad, you won’t go back.”

Erick added, “I’ll even pay more for a meal if I know I’m going to be treated well.”

While the young men are excited about being back in Little Falls and reopening the city’s “pearl,” community members appear to be happy about it also—so much so that they are dropping in to offer their services in its renovation.

Speaking of his offer, retired veterinarian Richard Peterson said, “I haven’t done much. But, I just wanted to see how the boys are doing. They have a lot of enthusiasm. They seem to be working hard at it. When I first came here, the Pine Edge was the place to go.”

Jan Warner and other members of her family have been helping with the renovation also. “The closing of the Pine Edge Inn was a great loss to the community, both historically and economically,” said jan. “Two of my interest are local history anad refinishing wood. i volunteered to refinish the entrance doors to make a welcome statement for the anticipated reopening of the Inn. I hope that the community will get involved in supporting this venture. It is an important asset to Little Falls.”

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