Williston has a need, a need for seafood.
At least, that’s what the new owners of the old Elks building are betting on.
The building at 408 1st Ave. East, across from the Old Armory, is receiving renovation inside, which will include a classy steak and seafood restaurant with “a Cajun flare,” though the building’s exterior will remain the same, said owner Joel Lundeen. “The Williston - boutique hotel, restaurant and bar” is slated to open in early June.
“It’s a great building and we’re going to try and preserve the outside of the way the building looks currently because it’s important to a lot of people we’ve talked to in the city,” Lundeen said. “Everybody has a story about this building, so we want to keep that feel of the lodge.”
The Elks bought the land in 1911. Lundeen said the building was originally constructed in 1913, received an addition in 1950 and was updated in 1982. Lundeen said he has enjoyed researching the old building and has records about the land dating back to the 1800s.
The 1982 update brought the electrical and mechanical into the modern world and mostly up to code, Lundeen said. The extensive renovations of the interior involve altering the floor plan to remake the lodge as a small, luxury hotel.
“Our hotel rooms are going to be 900 square feet apiece. They’ll have full kitchens. We’re catering to a specific group of executives. Kind of that luxury-living side of things that’s not being catered to right now,” Lundeen said.
In addition to the hotel and restaurant, office space will be available for lease in the building.
This is a new enterprise for Lundeen. He said he has spent most of his career on the financial side of things. This is his first foray into the service side of the hotel business along with some investors who call themselves the Williston Investment Group.
“It’s just a group of us, two gentlemen from Minot, and I’m out of South Carolina,” Lundeen said, adding that it is a family effort.
“I have my children and their spouses and my two grandchildren here. We’re making Williston our home and we are excited to be here,” he said.
Staffing and housing has been a challenge, but they have met with some success in that regard, Lundeen said. They are trying to hire locally, he said, but some employees will be brought in from outside.
“Of course our chefs and so forth we’re bringing in will need to be housed, but some of the other staff, we’ve already talked with some of them, and have had fairly good luck with people who already have housing here,” Lundeen said.
While the renovations proceed, Lundeen and family are living in the building, which also houses Hawaii Fire Grill, a delivery/carry out restaurant that opened last week.
When the renovations are complete, Hawaii Fire Grill will move to a second restaurant space in the building and the steak and seafood restaurant will assume the restaurant space on the main floor.
“Obviously we still have a lot of details to work out, but we’re really trying to get a feel for the town and what the needs are. We’re going to really try to make it something—it sounds kind of cliche—but that the town would be proud of and that is accessible,” Lundeen said.