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Lake House (formerly The Brig) to offer ‘dining experience’

What was once a dream is now reality. After years in the restaurant business as a chef and manager, William Lemer, 41, is about to fulfill a longtime goal to manage his own restaurant in Mitchell with the help of his close friend and his wife. Le...

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Jeremy Jensen, left, and William Lemer discuss their new restaurant, Lake House, as they continue to prepare to open in April. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

What was once a dream is now reality.

After years in the restaurant business as a chef and manager, William Lemer, 41, is about to fulfill a longtime goal to manage his own restaurant in Mitchell with the help of his close friend and his wife.

Lemer, his wife, Josie, and friend of 12 years, Jeremy Jensen, plan to open an all-inclusive dining destination they believe is unlike anything else in the area. The restaurant, called Lake House, occupies the structure once known as The Brig and is expected to open for business in mid-April.

Jensen, a 33-year-old Mitchell resident who helped oversee the large-scale renovation effort and serves as an ownership partner, said he was happy to aid Lemer in achieving his aspiration to manage a restaurant.

“Something like this that helps him follow his dream, I definitely stand behind 100 percent,” Jensen said.

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Since The Brig closed and the new owners took over in December, the building has been gutted and prepped for the dining and entertainment experience envisioned by Jensen and the Lemers.

Upon entrance into the Lake House through its south doors, customers may not recognize they’ve entered what was once a well-known institution in Mitchell. Distressed wood and freshly installed features now occupy the entryway of the restaurant, but perhaps the most noticeable change may be the four new windows on the west wall of the building providing hilltop views of Lake Mitchell.

With lakeside views from the indoor dining space, which will soon be accompanied by an outdoor patio space, the Lake House has something unlike any other restaurant in Mitchell.

Although the decision to open up the building’s interior to natural light for the first time in decades wasn’t part of the original plan, Jensen called the views an “eye-opener.”

The dining area will be located next to the new windows, offering customers a view overlooking the lake whether they sit inside or out. The dining area is also flanked by a stage Jensen said could be used for music, comedy or other events like fundraisers.

Despite intentions to open in approximately one month, Jensen and the Lemers found themselves surrounded by construction workers hammering away at the wide array of new features throughout the restaurant. A construction crew is currently working to finish the new bar, a 20-machine casino and to complete various other tasks in the full-scale remodel.

There will also be an entirely new kitchen, which the partners added in order to give staff a professional facility.

The items to be prepared in the new kitchen are part of a menu being developed by Lemer, who said “there’s not too many things I can’t cook.” Although Lemer will serve as the general manager rather than the head chef, he’s working diligently with professional chefs from out-of-state to bring new flavors to the palates of Mitchell residents.

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Lemer has released some of the menu items on the restaurant’s Facebook page, which recently surpassed 900 likes without serving a single customer. The menu items include cod bites served with a dill and caper dip, jalapeno corn nuggets, a hamburger topped with avocado and pork rind and Caribbean mango habanero pork ribs. Lemer has yet to reveal the entire menu, but he said Lake House will serve everything from steak to nachos.

“We’re going to have a lot of things Mitchell has not seen before,” Jensen said about Lemer’s menu and the restaurant’s other features. “We’re going to bring an experience to Mitchell that’s been lacking.”

When it comes to the menu, Jensen has full faith in Lemer’s experience.

“I just followed in Bill’s footsteps,” Jensen said. “Anyone that knows Bill knows he’s a connoisseur of good food.”

Good food from good friends Jensen and Lemer purchased The Brig after about two and a half years of casual discussion about entering the restaurant industry.

The two close friends considered other locations in Mitchell over the years, including Main Street and south of Interstate 90, but they ended up pulling the trigger on the chance to revitalize The Brig.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time and the opportunity just came together,” Lemer said.

Lemer, the owner of A+ Painting in Mitchell, rented the structure behind The Brig for years and was well-acquainted with former owner Todd Dikoff. The Lemers had also been customers at The Brig, having held their wedding reception at the laketop property.

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While the project partners realized the risk of starting a new business, they wanted to bring what Jensen called a “landmark property” in Mitchell back to its former glory.

“Everything’s a risk,” Lemer said. “The big thing here is this place is a staple of the Mitchell community.”

According to the building permit filed for the renovation, the investors put approximately $110,000 into their restaurant. But with the positive feedback they have already heard from the Mitchell community, Jensen said he’s felt a lot of the risk factor melt away.

Another factor making the large-scale renovation project easier is Lemer and Jensen’s experience in the building and construction industry, which helped them solve assorted problems they came across renovating the old building.

Like Lemer, Jensen’s construction experience dates back years. Currently, Jensen works as a general contractor of commercial and residential projects in eastern South Dakota, which came in handy during a project where the investors would have otherwise needed to hire a contractor.

And Jensen said he’s enjoyed restoring the old structure. He said tearing apart the existing building and getting some insight into the building’s history has been one of the most exciting parts of the entire project.

But the project hasn’t been all fun and games for Jensen and Lemer. In construction projects, the two typically build new rather than restoring old facilities, so redoing some plumbing and cutting out concrete served as a minor hurdle during the project.

Lemer and Jensen also decided to step outside of their typical mode of operation by diving headfirst into the project without extensive preliminary design plans.

“This was different for us,” Lemer said. “Normally we work off a plan, but there was no plan here.”

While making decisions on the fly, like the knocking out portions of the west wall in favor of windows, the partners determined they wanted to pay tribute to The Brig by leaving one wooden post untouched among the new construction.

“You’re going to walk in here and you're going to know where you’re at by looking at that post,” Jensen said.

Other than the sole reminder of the building formerly known as The Brig, Jensen said 99.9 percent of the dining area is new.

Location, location, location Jensen and Lemer had scoured Mitchell for potential spots to house their restaurant, but the northern Mitchell location on Highway 37 provided them with the opportunity to do something more than adding a new dining experience to Mitchell.

“You get people coming back this way and things will develop in all directions,” Jensen said.

As the south side of town grows at a rapid rate with big box retailers and housing developments, Jensen said a destination like the Lake House could bring business to the northern side of town.

The location along Highway 37 also provides Jensen and the Lemers the opportunity to attract customers who come from Sanborn County or Huron to shop on Main Street or south of I-90 in Mitchell. On their way back home or before shopping in Mitchell, Jensen hopes visitors decide to stop at the Lake House for a bite to eat.

Jensen said he’s as guilty as anyone in the area who heads for Sioux Falls on a Saturday solely for a meal, but he also hopes the Lake House keeps more foodies in the area who would otherwise find themselves making the trek out of town in the search of a new dining experience.

“You’ve got to have great food and you’ve got to have great atmosphere,” Jensen said. “You wrap that up in one location and it’s just going to be a blockbuster hit.”

As they gear up for an April opening, the investors expect to host a few soft openings with family, friends and local business owners. They also need to hire about 20 employees for their initial dinner service and potentially 10 to 15 more when they open for lunch service.

Lake House hours have not been set, but Lemer said anticipates starting at 4 p.m. to midnight on weeknights, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends and closing on Sunday. The casino will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days per week.

All that remains is some finishing and trim work and the Lake House will be in business.

“I’m excited just to bring something new to Mitchell,” Lemer said.

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A banner for the new restaurant, Lake House, covers the old sign for The Brig. Lake House is expected to open in mid-April. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

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