Lance Robinson thought all along that the West Fargo area would be right for a new MacKenzie River Pub & Grill. The people here made him feel like he was back in Missoula, Mont. He and his wife Shoni took the chance and now they'll have a location ready to go before long.
The franchisees had a goal of opening their fourth MacKenzie River by Nov. 1, or at least sometime in the fall, at 819 24th Ave. E. in West Fargo for its second location in North Dakota when the location was announced in April. The restaurant was set to open in the third quarter of 2018 and expected to employ 80 to 90 workers.
Current MacKenzie River locations are known for their pizza and feature a casual rustic atmosphere with refurbished and felled lumber furnishings, antique outdoor sportsman finishes and photographs of the Rocky Mountains. Glacier Restaurant Group out of Whitefish, Mont., operates MacKenzie River, which also has a location in Bismarck.
"I've always looked at Fargo," Robinson said. "They're blue collar, just down-to-earth people. That fits our model for the restaurant because it's more of a family-type atmosphere. It just seemed like the perfect fit for the brand. I just felt really good about the community and talking to people about it."
MacKenzie River celebrated its 25th anniversary in April. Early on, Robinson was a football coach at the University of Montana while Shoni was the general manager of MacKenzie River in Missoula. When he got out of coaching, Lance and Shoni, who already had five years of experience, worked on the business together.
"It was stressful," Robinson said. "But I felt confident because she had ran it for so long."
During his time as a coach, Robinson knew people in Fargo. He had talked about a location in the metro for about 2.5 years. He said this part of town wasn't quite grown in yet as it's become. He took his first trip here about two years ago then bought the ground last June when more businesses started coming in.
"It just grew in a lot faster than I thought it would," Robinson said. "It felt like the place to be."
Robinson said West Fargo was a good market for a new location, though finding and retaining enough workers, all of which he expects to be local, will be challenging.
He expects the West Fargo spot to be along the same lines of the other new MacKenzie River locations—somewhere between industrial and rustic—with a slightly different feel and look.
Robinson said he wanted a MacKenzie River in West Fargo because he felt it would be a unique family atmosphere but with something for everyone including a bar area.
"We just feel like it's a good product," Robinson said. "Just being around the people of Fargo and West Fargo, it just seemed like a good fit. ... We're just excited to get there and be a part of the community."