A former downtown bar is undergoing resurrection as a place for creative entrepreneurs and start-up entities to establish themselves.
Sue Wilson, owner of the former Chicago Club, called the remodeling of the building a "labor of love" as she and tenants work to gradually get businesses into operation. Tenants include a new church called The Pursuit Minot, Moore's Shou Shou, HobNob Antiques, Pangea House, a potter and a watercolor art shop.
The building will include an area for community gatherings or private events such as family reunions, as well as use by any of the tenants for their functions.
Tom Foisy, pastor at The Pursuit, stands Oct. 17 outside the former Chicago Club, where the church meets.
For Wilson, the project is about more than getting a vacant building back into service. It's about providing opportunity for small businesses that otherwise would be priced out of Minot's commercial property market. That's a situation she knows something about.
Wilson closed her business, United Pantry, on Main Street last January after her rent skyrocketed. When she decided to buy the former bar, she did so with the idea that rents would be well below the going rate and that tenants would be those whose future depends on affordable accommodations.
"The goal for this building is to allow start-up business and artists a reasonable rent rate and foster an environment for people to thrive," she said.
Wilson plans to eventually re-open United Pantry in the new building.
For now, the sign for The Chicago Club still hangs outside the building's front door. Wilson said she's not sure what will happen with the sign since discussions are ongoing as to what to call the building going forward.
In its early history, the building at 110-1st St. Southeast served as Minot's first Eagle's aerie. Converting it from many years of use as a bar has required gutting, cleaning and a lot of elbow grease by herself, tenants and friends to keep costs down, Wilson said.
People have donated paint. Mindt Construction and Ralph's Plumbing have assisted with remodeling.
"We have been very fortunate. The community has helped us tremendously," Wilson said. "There's a lot of community ownership in this building."
Although construction continues, The Pursuit Minot held its first church services Oct. 13 in lower-level space last used by a strip club.
Tom Foisy, lead pastor, said they filled their overflow room and may not be long from seeking larger quarters if turnout grows as expected. He hopes any future move would not take them far, though.
"We love to be part of the downtown," he said. "We want to stay downtown."
Foisy, a Seattle-area native and former youth pastor, and his wife, a nurse anesthetist from Sidney, Mont., had been interested in settling in Montana after finishing their education, but his wife's job opportunity at Trinity Hospital drew them to Minot. Minot is changing their minds about eventually moving to Montana, Foisy said.
"We saw what a melting pot it is. It's one of the more unique places in the country," said Foisy, who works for an oil-field staffing company along with pastoring the church. Nicolas Bawden, of Sidney, Mont., and Minot, is a landman in the oil and gas industry and executive pastor for The Pursuit Minot.
Founders saw the need for a church that could reach a group of people who haven't previously been drawn to church or whose search hasn't brought them to the right place. Foisy said the church welcomes those running from God, running to God or who just want a place that's safe and comfortable.
The church is called The Pursuit because the name reflects the organization's mission to pursue Jesus, pursue relationships and pursue community, authenticity and creativity.
"We believe that God is pursuing all of us, and we are often pursuing something or someone. Until our pursuit leads to God, we feel empty," Foisy said.
Initially, the church is meeting once a month while it builds a core of volunteers. Upcoming services are Nov. 10 and Dec. 8 and include separate activities for children in kindergarten or younger. The Christmas Eve service is expected to kick off a new schedule of weekly meetings, Foisy said.
The Pursuit Minot, a non-denominational church, is supported by Gold Creek Community Church in Mill Creek, Wash. The Washington church provides administrative assistance, accountability and encouragement, Foisy said. The Pursuit also has had support from a number of churches in Minot.
On The Chicago Club building's upper level, Moore's Shou Shou, has already begun the move into newly remodeled quarters in the building. It will be the third downtown move for the karate studio, which has operated in Minot for eight years.
Although not as large as the previous facility, the space will be more functional, allowing the studio to do more with less, owner Rodger Martin said. The new facilities include a lobby area, men and women's changing rooms, lockers, a private lesson room and a room for warming up or other individual use, along with a large classroom area.
A grand opening won't be scheduled until February, in conjunction with a visit by advanced-rank guest instructor.
Moore's offers classes for students ages 3 to adult. Martin said the studio teaches seven styles of martial arts, which are designed for self defense but also encourage proper body movement and healthy lifestyle.
Pangea House will have headquarters in the building, although larger events will continue to be held elsewhere. Pangea House has been providing arts offerings around the community in other settings since closing its previous downtown headquarters. Wilson said she is pleased to provide space to the group because members not only promote music and other arts but are community-minded, volunteering in various capacities around Minot.
Remodeling is continuing on space for HobNob Antiques, owned by Colleen Johnson, a local antique collector. She said the shop will feature mainly glassware but also small furniture pieces, gift items and items that go with antique decor.
"It will have this and that from here and there and then and now," she said.
An official opening date hasn't been set. Johnson said the shop will be open only certain days but also by appointment. Hobnob means to mingle and socialize, and Johnson said she welcomes people to stop by to visit.
A local potter who has rented work space in the building for the past year will continue to do so. There is no retail outlet in the building, but items from Hi-Performance Pottery can be purchased through Home Sweet Home or Margie's Art Glass Studio.
Wilson said she is aiming for a grand opening in the remodeled building in early December.