VERNDALE - A popular dining spot, Maasconi’s Char & Bar, on Hwy 10, is now rebranded as the Pirate's Den with a new owner, new management and host of new offerings.
The new owner of the establishment, Brian Hagen, of Verndale, has been busily keeping up with remodeling in the interior while a new gas station has been added to the options. People can expect a similar restaurant and bar experience but will also have the benefit of a convenience store and gas station all in one. Verndale just recently welcomed back a gas station at the former Carr's Convenience store when Kim and Austen Rife purchased and reopened the station in October. The Cenex branded gas station at the Pirate's Den includes three fuel islands with three fuel types, Hagen said.
“I’m excited and nervous all the same time,” Hagen said of the new venture.
On top of starting this new venture, Hagen also owns Torco Power Equipment in Wadena, is in a partnership with Black Hole Ice Shack's in Verndale and recently maed a run for Wadena County Commissioner.
Maasconi’s Char & Bar has earned a reputation for great food. Jim and Kim Maas, of Wadena, purchased the restaurant in 2016 when it was the Bullseye Bar & Grill. They formerly owned The Uptown in Wadena.
Construction work at Pirate's Den involves improving a popular volleyball court area. Hagen said the volleyball leagues are very popular there and he looks to continue to offer that. The large banquet area inside will become the convenience store. The main parking area to the west of the restaurant is now the site of the fueling stations, which moves the main parking area to the north side of the building. That north side will also be the main entrance for the restaurant and bar.
Hagen said in a feasibility study done on the business plan, he found that this business was of significant need for locals and those visiting the area, including the abundance of visitors at R & J Horse Arena in Verndale.
With the added convenience store and fuel, Hagen also plans to bring a breakfast nook area where people can enjoy breakfast foods out of the convenience store. Broasted chicken is one food item he was especially excited to see coming to the convenience store.
"The best broasted chicken in the state," Hagen said. “A lot of locally made, freshly made products to offer for our C-store customers,” Hagen said.
While much will remain the same in the restaurant area, Hagen also brought some unique additions including adding garage doors to the building so visitors can easily move in and out during those few warm months of the year. The current covered patio area should be an even more alluring spot as Hagen looks to add “fire walls.” This will feature flames from a natural gas insert to give people some added warmth and aesthetic value while enjoying a meal outside. Hagen sees this as a major attraction.
The staff from Maasconi's will stay on according to new manager Tamar Bettis. Bettis said with plans to extend hours and be open seven days a week, they're also hiring for several positions. Hagen said he plans to have the restaurant open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight within a couple weeks. The opening continues to fluctuate with the current COVID-19 restrictions placed on some businesses. They are currently open for takeout options and have expanded space for fish houses on the north side to serve people in the great outdoors inside a warm fish house.
Kitchen manager Kenny Schultz has been working in the kitchen for 10 years and cooking for a total of about 15 years. He said the plan is to keep much of the menu the same for now, but they may gradually add in new options. He's been at the business through three owners and said he just enjoys the work and the closeness to his home.
Hagen believes the business will remain open during the phases of construction. He hopes the C-store will open by the first week of the year. His goal is to create a convenient location that gives customers everything they need in one place.
This total project is a costly endeavor estimated at $1.1 million to complete. Hagen has been approved for tax increment financing with the city, which will reduce some of the burden of property taxes as he seeks to raise the value of the property significantly.
Hagen said Verndale has a big asset in Hwy 10 and this is just one more way to take advantage of the abundance of traffic and offer a needed service in the community.