‘Bago EDA helps fund restaurant
With aspirations of drawing in Guy Fieri and the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” crew, a brisket-heavy menu ready for cooking and a business plan meant to revitalize Main Street shopping in small-town Minnesota, Scott and Katie Reisenbigler had the Winnebago Economic Development Authority licking its chops at a Wednesday meeting.
It is where the EDA members unanimously approved a loan request from the Reisenbiglers, who have been working toward a purchase of the Winnebago Grill, which has been closed since August. And it is where Scott, known for barbeque competitions with his Iowa-based Scotty Biggs BBQ venture, assured the EDA of visionary plans for what could become the city’s lone Main Street restaurant Ann Marie’s Kitchen.
“We’re intending to get people to drive for miles and miles,” Scott Reisenbigler said, labeling his wife, Katie, the “brains of the operation.”
With approval from the EDA, the Reisenbiglers figure to get a chance to make that happen. Their loan request, the second publicly discussed inquiry regarding a purchase of the Grill since its sudden summer closing, puts both the Winnebago and Faribault County EDAs in partnership with Scott, who comes from Mankato.
As city administrator Chris Ziegler explained and the board members later signed off on, Winnebago will guarantee half of $15,000 toward a $55,000 building and equipment price tag, with the county guaranteeing the other $7,500. The two EDAs will also split a guarantee of an additional $15,000 line of credit.
“It looks pretty good,” said Ziegler, echoing comments from Faribault County Development Corporation’s Tim Clawson, who informed the county EDA of the purchase plan at that board’s Jan. 18 meeting.
And if Reisenbigler’s experience or, more so, his enthusiasm is any indication of what awaits the vacant 11 S. Main St. eatery, a whole lot more than the people making up the EDA’s roundtable figure to support the proposed Grill revival.
“I’ve spent 25 years in the kitchen,” said Scott Reisenbigler, who is also a driver for Winnebago’s Continental Carbonic Products plant. “I started as a dishwasher at Bonanza (Steakhouse) and made my way up to chef, and I know people here are used to having the Grill, so we want to keep some of the same things but also do some different stuff to get a little buzz.”
A little buzz, in fact, might be an understatement, Reisenbigler clarified.
“We’re going to have what’s called Guy’s Big Boy Burger, and the idea is to eventually get (TV restaurateur and food critic) Guy Fieri here, get people to stop and check out business all around downtown,” he said.
Whether in the form of a new marquee sign, a logo rebranding the Grill as Ann Marie’s Kitchen in memory of Scott’s mother, or the signature burger, a half-pound patty topped with brisket, pulled pork, bacon, cheese, onion straws and barbeque sauce, Reisenbigler’s aim is not only to draw a spotlight.
It is also, of course, to treat a community that has lost a handful of local businesses in the last year and, according to Ziegler, is now preparing for the permanent shutdown of Cuquita’s Tex Mex restaurant down the street.
“I do a lot of barbeque, but I have Asian and Spanish influences as well,” Reisenbigler said. “We’ll do daily blue plate specials, breakfast and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and then play it by ear.”
With purchase details all but ironed out after Wednesday’s meeting by the EDA, which passed an approving motion from board member Steve Malchow contingent upon approval from the county EDA, it might not be long before Ann Marie’s Kitchen opens its doors, either.
Already promoting made-from-scratch specials on Facebook and plotting ideas for food stands at the city’s annual summer Fun Fest, the Reisenbiglers said they hope to begin serving Winnebago on March 1, with an open house and tentative hours to precede a grand opening a month later.
“The idea,” Scott said with a smile, “was to do it on April 1, and then you say, ‘April Fool’s, we’re now open, and that’s no joke.'”
The EDA sure hopes not for the sake of the Winnebago and its Main Street business scene, not to mention the Reisenbiglers and what is suddenly shaping up as a prominent project at the heart of the town.