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Lighthouse on Homestead reopens in Knife River

Former Lighthouse on Homestead owners Andrea Darsow, Claire Pierson, Brita Aug, and Lynne Compton have moved their restaurant to Knife River. Forum Newspapers photo.

The family who operated the Lighthouse on Homestead restaurant until it closed abruptly in July is back in business at a new location in Knife River.

"We're very excited to be open," said Claire Pierson, who owns the restaurant with her two sisters and a niece.

Taking their menu, most of their staff, and their nautical theme with them, they opened Tuesday in the former Emily's Eatery along Scenic Highway 61, about 20 miles northeast of downtown Duluth. The new restaurant overlooking the Knife River is called Lighthouse at Emily's.

"We knew we didn't want to be done," said Pierson's sister, Brita Aug. "We love the restaurant business."

While word had gotten out that they would reopen in the former Emily's Eatery, which closed last October, they didn't advertise their opening date.

"We just opened quietly," Pierson said. "We didn't say anything."

So much for a soft opening. Lunch was brisk as locals, tourists, and well-wishers dropped in, experiencing the welcoming atmosphere that had built a loyal following at the other restaurant.

"This is wonderful," said Lighthouse regular Bob Mohs, gazing around at the familiar decor of fishing nets and lures, historical pictures, and mounted faux fish on the walls. "I think this is going to be a fabulous location."

Mohs and his wife, Leslie, often ate at the Lighthouse on Homestead three miles away.

"We couldn't wait for them to reopen," he said.

With plenty of restaurant experience, Pierson and Aug and their sister, Lynne Compton, and Compton's daughter, Andrea Darsow, opened the lighthouse-shaped restaurant on Homestead Road four years ago. They had the restaurant built between Scenic Highway 61 and the expressway to Two Harbors. Meant to be a friendly neighborhood restaurant, they developed a loyal following.

According to Pierson and Aug, the construction had been expensive, and when the recession hurt business, they had difficulty making their bank payments. The bank worked with them. But when business improved, they couldn't make the higher payments demanded of them.

The bank took action, closing the restaurant on July 20, Pierson said."It was very abrupt; it was a surprise to us," she said. "It was a sad thing for the whole community."

"When they closed, everyone was devastated," Leslie Mohs said.

The Lighthouse owners then worked out an agreement with the owner of Emily's about leasing that space, Aug said.

Besides diners, neighboring businesses are happy the restaurant has reopened.

"We're extremely happy to have them here," said Pamela Matson, a co-owner of Great Lakes Candy Kitchen across the street. "We're ecstatic about it."

Already on Tuesday, the candy shop was getting customers who had eaten at the new restaurant.

"It's a perfect combination -- people stopping there for lunch and here for a little candy," she said.

Unlike Emily's Eatery, the new restaurant, which includes a small bar, will be open year-round for lunch and dinner during the week but also for breakfast on weekends.

Its menu of burgers, hot sandwiches, pasta, and salads starts at about $7.50, while its walleye dinner is $19.95.

"It's has been a fabulous day," Aug said after the busy lunch crowd. "It's an excellent start to our new endeavor."