|All Sources > Manitou Messenger (DA-MM) > The Manitou Messenger (1916-2020) > 1989 > No. 15, Vol. 102|
Local movie theater reopens as restaurant
Author: L. Alise Blegen
The Grand Theater, which has been a fixture in Northfield since 1899, re-opened last week as a restaurant. The Grand, formerly a movie theater, closed in 1985 after the final showing of a picture ironically titled "A Code of Silence." The building now fills with the sounds of Sinatra during the day and top-forty dance music at night, breaking the four-year silence.
The new owners, Bruce Pofahl and John Baca, both 1980 Carleton graduates, were thinking about opening a restaurant together when they visited Northfield for Homecoming in 1987. It was then that they first became interested in the building. According to Pofahl, the two decided to turn what was once a vaudeville playhouse into a restaurant because "if an Inanimate object can be said to have a character or personality, this one does."
The restaurant plays off the themes of classic American films and movie stars. The original theater seats in the lobby and old photos of Garbo, Gable and Garland recall a time when a night at the theater was a special event. Even the menu helps to create this mood. A patron of this "theater" can begin with an appetizer found under the heading "opening act" and finish with a piece of cheesecake such as the "Grand finale."
Naturally, the food is as American as Hollywood movies. Pofahl hopes to attract a wide variety of customers with a flexible menu. "Basically, I expect to see anyone from a businessman in a three-piece suit at one table to a young couple in jeans at the next," Pofahl said. "We serve anything front shrimp scampi and prime rib to a cheeseburger." All of the soups served are homemade, as are some desserts. Prices are moderate.
Seating in The Grand is divided between the main floor and balcony sections. Both levels are equipped with a wet bar, and customers of questionable ages will be carded at their table. The two opera box seats on either side of the stage offer a location for a private dinner. As hostess Susan Kocourek stated, "The Grand could be a very romantic place for a couple, or more upbeat rind fun for a larger group. It all defends on the customers to set the mood."
Careful remodeling has added to the uniqueness of The Grand. Both the opera boxes and fan window in the balcony have been boarded up in recent years. Workers restored the high domed ceiling by cleaning and polishing the silver molding from scaffolds. Many of the art deco lighting fixtures date back to the 1920's. The owners also salvaged some original vaudeville posters which were pasted to a back wall behind the stage.
A 1920 "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" column rated the acoustics in The Grand second only to those in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Customers will have an opportunity to "believe it or not" when the projection screen is used to broadcast MTV and the stage becomes a dance floor at night. Pofahl also has plans for live entertainment. "Maybe we will have jazz or soft rock performed once or twice a month." Pofahl speculates. Live comedy is another idea Pofahl considers.
"I'm sure that there is some talent we could draw upon from the colleges and the Northfield community. I don't think that a Louie Anderson or a Jay Leno would be dropping by, but it would be nice if we could get someone like a Scott Hanson in here," Pofahl said.
Both the owners and the staff are optimistic about the opening of The Grand in Northfield. "I waited on two older people the other night," slates waitress Heidi Pederson "It was interesting to hear them talk about the way the theater looked when they were young and went on dates here." Kocourek agrees, "There has been a lot of curiosity and many phone calls from people asking about the place. This restaurant deserves to make it in this community, I think, because of the history of the building, the uniqueness of the restaurant, and the time that (the owners) have put into creating a fun atmosphere."
The Grand is open seven days a week and is located at 316 Washin- ton Street, just up the block from Mandarin Gardens. Reservations are advised.