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Newport’s North Pole restaurant re-opens after remodel

Son and mother duo, Brian and Mary North, owners of the North Pole Restaurant in Newport, reopened the business earlier this month after a much needed remodel. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

Four days without the North Pole’s signature cafe food and slice of pie may have seemed like an eternity for some loyal customers, but the brief shutdown allowed for a remodel nearly a decade in the making.

Two weeks ago, crews moved a partition wall between the Newport Center restaurant and the neighboring Newport Drug store by 12 feet to make room for 10 new tables, all new booths and a larger foyer in the entrance.

The remodel, which had been planned for years, was halted after the reconstruction of Highway 61 began and the recession hit.

Minor construction on the interior began shortly after Labor Day, owner Mary North said, and did not interfere with daily operations. But in order to move the wall and install new booths, the restaurant closed for four days.

On Friday, Nov. 1, the restaurant reopened its doors.

“We originally wanted to open on Halloween,” co-owner Brian North said. “But the remodel has been met with overwhelming positivity.”

As part of the remodel, a second bathroom was created next to the existing restroom. While a second one was not needed, the Norths said the addition was to be in line with current handicap accessible codes.

“We weren’t out of code with the current bathroom,” Mary said. “We just needed one that was handicap accessible.”

Windows were added to the new wall which separates the restaurant from Newport Drug. Merchandise will be displayed in windows to showcase products for sale.

“The store didn’t lose any product,” Brian said. “The pharmacy didn’t need all the square footage so we just condensed it. It’s a win-win because they also got a facelift and new carpet.”

The construction work also included the expansion of the front entrance and foyer. The original design allowed for only a few people to stand and wait for a table, but now there is more leg room with a seating area.

“Before, a couple people would fill up the entrance,” Brian said. “But now we can fit around 12 people in the foyer. And now they can sit down.”

Granite tops at the server’s and front cashier stations was also installed.

The remodel, Brian said, was a reinvestment into the future of the business. As the third generation to work at North Pole Restaurant, he said it’s part of he and his sister’s larger plan to take over the family business in the future.

“We wanted to make sure we had a financial plan in place before sinking a bunch of money into a place that we would eventually take over,” he said.

He and his sister, Tricia Hinz, used their own personal funds to update the restaurant which has been a signature landmark in Newport since 1948.

With a regular crowd that dines at the restaurant as much as twice a day, Brian said customers were lining up at the door opening morning.

“As soon as the key turned, people came in,” Mary said, adding the Nov. 1 opening was the second most profitable day of 2013; Mother’s Day was the first.

“(The customers) are our lifeblood,” Brian added.

This remodel is the second in the restaurant’s history, with the first one occurring 21 years ago.

“We had people asking what took us so long,” Brian said. “But it’s been met with overwhelming positivity and we have a whole lot of support from this community.”