If anyone can charm a man named "Torch," it is Wendy Karn, the co-owner and manager of the town's newest pub, the Burnsville Ale House.
"Torch brought me all the plants out there on the deck. He's one of these tough biker guys and he says 'Do you need flowers out there?'" said Karn, who has an easy sense of humor and penchant for peace signs. "That was really cute."
Such is the magic touch that turned a grungy biker bar into a warmly-appointed haven. The building at 3809 Highway 13 West had been host to a number of establishments—most recently the Edge Bar and Grill—which seemed to close up almost as soon as they appeared.
When Karn first toured the property, it was a desolate spot.
"For whatever reason when I walked in here—as dark and dingy as it was—I just saw what was possible and I liked the feeling of that when I came in," Karn said. "And there's something about taking the underdog too. I just really wanted to take this beautiful building and shine it and buff it and soften its image so that people in the community felt more comfortable coming in here and weren't afraid of it."
Karn was up to the challenge. Since graduating from Burnsville High in 1981 she has acquired decades of experience in the restaurant industry. She has one particular expertise: Making the debut of a restaurant or bar a success, most notably the upscale Asian fusion chain Crave.
The problem, as Karn saw it, was that the Edge and its previous incarnations didn't stand out among the pack. There are two other bars nearby. Both offer rock and country music on weekends, a standard bar menu and macho ambiance.
"What they were doing here was the same thing as these two were doing and that didn't make any sense," Karn said. "It was like buying a McDonald's next to a McDonald's and trying to convince people that they should come to mine."
Soon after the opening on April 16, Karn decided to stage their Saturday night music early in the evening.
"(The clientele) are all like 10 years past me in either direction, I'm doing music from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Nobody else has music that early,'" Karn said. "It's usually 9:30, 10 o'clock at night and they want to go home and go to bed. They're loving that, and for the people who want to stay out later they can go to either side of us where music starts at 10."
Next, she and her staff came up with a dinstinctive menu packed with comfort foods. The meatloaf sliders are a hit, as our their "beer burgers."
But, the most important ingedient is good will.
"I love taking care of people. There is nothing more satisfying to me than when I see people happy," Karn said. "Even when people come in and maybe the food wasn't just right if I can turn it around and those people leave happy nothing feels better to me than that."
The staff is still tweaking the menu and the line up of activities. So far, they have karaoke on Thursday, poker, and of course, a bike run on Sundays. In spite of their rowdy reputation, Karn has found Torch and his ilk to be an obliging bunch.
"That group of people has been nothing but kind to me. They're just really sweet people," Karn said.
For more information about the Burnsville Ale House, go to burnsville-ale-house.com or check out their Facebook page.