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Local landmarks Dixie and Hugo’s up for sale

Hugos: Hugo's Bar, a staple in Brimson for more than five decades, is up for sale. Owners Jodi and Gary Hepola have owned the bar for about five years. Photo courtesy of the Hepolas.1 / 2
Dixie: Deanna and Scott Larson in front of the Dixie Bar & Grill just after they purchased the business. They announced this week that they've put the business up for sale after owning it for almost seven years. File photo / 20072 / 2

In what they promise is a coincidence, owners of both the Dixie Bar and Grill and Hugo’s Bar announced on Tuesday that they’ve put their businesses on the market.

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Scott and Deanna Larson of Two Harbors put the announcement up on Facebook at 10 a.m. and Gary and Jody Hepola posted theirs later in the day. The Larsons have owned Dixie in Two Harbors for almost seven years and the Hepolas have run Hugo’s for about five years, with a year-and-a-half break when another owner took over but later handed the place back to them.

The owners say that both businesses will maintain regular services until they sell.

Dixie Bar, Grill and Bottle Shop The Larsons were looking for an adventure when they decided to buy the Dixie in 2007. The bar and restaurant, located about seven miles north of Two Harbors on Highway 2, had been open for an estimated 50 years. It was the first business venture for the couple.

Deanna started her food service career at Miller’s Café in Two Harbors when she was just 14 years old and worked her way through many restaurants, gaining knowledge that was invaluable to their later venture.

She said they worked hard to transform the run-down building into a business of which they could be proud. After many renovations and the addition of a bottle shop, the Dixie is a regular gathering place for locals.

“Building up a strong local customer base was a huge success for us. Maintaining our locals is what we’re most proud of,” Deanna said.

She said Scott will keep his job at the school district and when – or if – the Dixie sells, she’ll find something to occupy her time. In the interim, the Larsons will continue running the business as usual – and they’re in no hurry to say goodbye.

“We’ve had a ton of excellent employees and customers,” Deanna said. “If we do sell, we sell. If we don’t, it’s okay.”

Larry Peterson at Century 21 is handling the sale for the Larsons. He can be reached at 830-0247.

Hugo’s Bar and Grill Sitting at the corner of Highway 44 and Two Harbors Brimson Road, Hugo’s is an institution in the area. The bar and general store provide necessities for locals and visitors alike, selling everything from matches and pantry staples to liquor. It’s been the mecca of activity for the far flung community for more than 50 years.

Jody and Gary Hepola took over in 2008. Prior to the purchase, Jody was a bartender at Hugo’s and when the owner put the place up for sale, she and her husband dove in.

“It was definitely a distressed property,” she said. They worked hard to improve the bar and make it family-friendly.

“We want people to be able to come in with their grandkids and have pizza and ice cream during the day,” she said. But they still wanted to maintain the fun bar atmosphere in the evenings.

To that end, they turned Hugo’s into something of a community center, offering classes, potlucks and a farmer’s market during the day and selling strong beer and fried food in the evenings. They also renovated the premises and added a fryer in the kitchen and a bottle shop.

“It is like a big family,” she said. “We’ll miss the people. We’ve made a lot of good friends.”

Jody said they don’t know what’s next – but hopefully it will involve spending winters someplace warm.

“We don’t know where we’re going to go so we’re not in any hurry to get there,” she said.

Ruth Rabold at Century 21 is handling the sale. She can be reached at 830-0239.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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