WESTHOPE - A business in this small, north-central North Dakota town is giving an old building new life while providing some much-needed jobs and services to the community.
Westhope Old Home ~ Sweet Home is a combination restaurant, motel and bar located in the old Westhope Nursing Home that closed down last summer. The building was purchased by Jon Dehler of Billings, Mont., and the business will be managed by Donna Erickson, who has managed bars and apartment properties in the past.
Erickson hopes to have Westhope Old Home ~ Sweet Home open in early June, no later than the tenth. That will be quite a feat considering remodeling work didn't start until May 10, but Erickson is confident the work will be done on time.
Erickson, who is originally from Westhope, is moving back from Minot to manage the business. This is more than just a job to her, as she loves the type of life small towns provide and doesn't want to see Westhope lose a valuable business like the nursing home with nothing to replace it.
"I hate to see small towns die. I think if this would have sat empty, the town would have just folded up," Erickson said. "There's a big need for it, for housing."
The motel will provide between 30 and 36 rooms, which should help Westhope's housing situation. There will be daily, weekly and monthly rates to accommodate travellers just passing through town as well as workers in the energy industry who need to stay a while.
"We've talked to Diamond B Trucking and they're needing rooms for their guys, and there's other companies moving in that need rooms," Erickson said.
Because the motel rooms are being remodeled from former nursing home rooms, there will be no showers in them. Instead, there will be banks of showers with privacy doors spread throughout the motel for guest use. Some rooms will also have to share a toilet and sink, while others will have a private bathroom.
The motel apparently can't open quick enough, as Erickson said many people have been asking when it will be ready.
The restaurant will have two dining rooms and offer homemade food for breakfast, lunch and supper like grandma used to make. There will also be daily lunch specials.
"We want to make it a mom and pop restaurant. ... It's going to be pretty much basic restaurant food, like what you could get in the restaurants in Minot, also," Erickson said.
Between the main dining room and the overflow room, Erickson thinks she could probably seat between 100 and 150.
The bar, which will be the only smoking area in the facility, will offer basic fare and Erickson said the prices will be similar to other bars in the area. Since the restaurant is in the same building, patrons will be able to order food that will be prepared in restaurant's kitchen and brought to the bar. The bar's menu will be pared down a little, but there will still be plenty to choose from.
"I do have a bar appetizer menu, plus like chicken baskets and stuff like that," Erickson said. "I have all of the basket meals for the bar."
On Friday nights there will be a happy hour special plus free appetizers. Erickson said they haven't figured out what the hours for happy hour will be yet, but should have that settled by the time they open up.
One important thing she noted is that the business also owns the Trinity Community Clinic-Westhope building, and has a lease with Trinity Hospital to keep the clinic running on its normal schedule.
"The clinic will stay ... the clinic will not be closing," Erickson said.
Along with the motel, restaurant and bar, there are also some smaller projects being done to give patrons the best experience possible. In addition to the many banks of showers being built, there will also be a large walk-in cooler.
Erickson said they are also thinking of putting in a game room with a pool table if there is enough space. Pinball machines are another option.
"It's going to really depend on how we feel on what we need to put in down there. It would be nice to have a pool table and maybe even an air hockey table or something similar to that," Erickson said. "Something that people can just get away and play games."
She added there will be darts available in the bar, and possibly a pool table as well depending on the layout of everything.
For those who want to get out of their rooms and just relax for a bit, there will be a TV room with couches and recliners. Just off the TV room will be a large patio that will offer guests outdoor grilling opportunities.
"Plus we also own the city park, which is behind the building here," Erickson said. "It's a big park ... and we're thinking about putting picnic tables and charcoal grills out there."
With a business this large, Erickson will need plenty of employees to help run it. She is trying to hire as many people as possible who worked at the old nursing home to give them back a job. She is hiring cooks, waitresses, housekeepers, bartenders, bar waitresses, dishwashers and all other kinds of kitchen help. Erickson isn't sure how many employees she will have total, but getting as many people a job as possible is another way she hopes to help her native town.
"I hate seeing small towns just go to pot, and hopefully this will bring people into Westhope or the surrounding area," Erickson said.