Mother and daughter Julie Wellen and Sara Wojciechowski both had been talking about doing some self-employment work. It would be talk that would take them to a familiar atmosphere.
“It turns out, we were both thinking about this place,” Wellen said, “and not even saying it out loud.”
Wojciechowski called and asked questions about this place, looking to run it, and the owners, the Wikstrom family, said “yes.” This place is the Nordhem Restaurant in Karlstad.
A mother and daughter duo, Wellen and Wojciechowski reopened the restaurant on November 11. They both talked about the response to the reopening, days and hours of operation, some of its menu items and potential future menu items, how it’s doing in the help department, what they’ve enjoyed most about the work so far, and messages to the public.
Ready to retire, Wellen moved from Little Falls, Minn., to Karlstad in June 2021. She was working in Thief River Falls and her daughter Sara Wojciechowski at Polaris when they had decided to reopen the restaurant.
The restaurant scene is a familiar one for these Roseau natives. Wellen owned the Badger, Minn., restaurant for a time period, at which time Wojciechowski got her start behind the grill.
“I’ve been at the grill since I was like 10 years old, so when this all happened (the opportunity to reopen Nordhem), it was like…,” Wojciechowski said.
“It just seemed like a natural thing for us to do it,” Wellen said, finishing her daughter’s statement.
The response to them reopening the restaurant so far has been “fantastic,” according to Wellen.
“People are so appreciative, and kind, and fun. We have a lot of fun,” Wellen said. “… It has been stressful. It’s very challenging, no doubt about that.”
Asked further about the challenge, Wellen said they garnered more turnout at first than they expected, but the challenge has been getting something going that hasn’t been going for awhile.
“You got to find your wind,” Wellen said. “You got to find your way.”
Speaking of getting going, staffing the restaurant has provided some difficulty.
“We were lucky enough to get people who were qualified,” Wellen said, “and that helped us— people who were experienced at this restaurant. They’ve worked here before.”
Wojciechowski said the struggle specifically now in terms of help is waiter/waitress help on the weekends.
“If we can have consistent employees, we can be consistently open,” Wellen said, “because we’ve had to close a few days because we didn’t have anybody.”
In the six weeks they’ve been open, they’ve had to close three days due to this help issue.
“We’re not afraid to say, okay, we need help,” Wojciechowski said.
“I want people who are going to stick it out, consistent,” Wellen added.
“Even through the tough times,” Wojciechowski said.
Currently, the restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm, and on Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm. They are “happy” to do take-out orders. They also are hosting parties and banquets in the restaurant’s banquet room. Wellen wanted people to know times will arise when the restaurant is closed due to family or personal things arising.
“If it all goes as planned,” Wojciechowski said, “we are hoping to open in the evenings a couple of days a week.”
To see the complete story, read the December 30 issue of the North Star News in print or online.