TOWER— It’s one of Tower’s most iconic buildings, the former icehouse of a long defunct brewery, and the longtime home of the storied Iron Ore Bar. Yet, since the death of the …
TOWER— It’s one of Tower’s most iconic buildings, the former icehouse of a long defunct brewery, and the longtime home of the storied Iron Ore Bar. Yet, since the death of the bar’s owner, Margie Lakoskey, a decade ago, it has sat empty and forlorn, waiting for someone to take the leap and bring a new chapter into the life of this unusual structure.
Dave and Kathleen Trumble, of North St. Paul, recently took that leap, after keeping their eye on the price tag as it slowly dropped over the nearly ten years the building spent on the market. Dave Trumble said he used to visit the Iron Ore Bar while snowmobiling in the area with friends, and he recalls that the building and the atmosphere of the bar always made an impression.
So, last October, the couple asked to tour the building and saw the potential.
They weren’t the first. Over the years, dozens of potential buyers had kicked the tires. Many left excited at the possibilities but sobered at the work and money involved in restoring the three-story concrete monolith. The former bar sat on the ground floor, while Margie lived in an apartment on the second floor. The third floor was a vast, open cavern, where Margie’s kids used to play basketball. Trumble also asked to see the roof, which he envisions, someday, as a possible rooftop café, complete with breathtaking views down the East Two River.
Trumble acknowledges that others had looked at it all and run away. “We were very close to running away, too,” he said. Yet Trumble, unlike many of the others who explored the possibilities, has a pretty good understanding of what he’s getting into. He has owned and operated Midwest Specialty Maintenance since 2004, which takes on commercial renovations and cleaning services, including windows, for some of the largest and tallest buildings in the Twin Cities. He knows how to transform a commercial building and he’s already exploring the possibilities for his latest venture.
Dave said he isn’t planning to do the work all at once. In fact, the couple is taking their time to explore a number of possible uses for the building. Kathleen said they’ve already had many suggestions from locals, from apartments to a brew pub, to a “girlie bar.”
Dave said he plans to invite a couple of his friends who are general contractors to tour the place to get some ideas. “Our intention is to do something with it, just not immediately,” said Dave, who sees restoring the place as a project for his “retirement,” which he is currently planning for two or three years down the line.
While the couple hasn’t settled on a use for the place, they think the location is ideal for any number of ventures. Dave said he’s been intrigued for years by the city’s efforts to develop the adjacent harbor area. The building is also located just off the Mesabi Trail, which he suspects will see even more use once the connection to Ely is completed. He was interested, as well, in the recent completion of the Ancient Cedars Trail, located less than a half mile walk from the former bar. Located next to so many recreational attractions, Dave said he’s considering converting at least a portion of the upstairs to short-term lodging as part of a rental pool.
“It may be a mix of residential and a first-floor restaurant,” he said. In either case, folks in Tower will have to wait a bit longer to find out for sure. “There is a ton of work to do,” said Dave.