A welcoming aura greets guest as they walk through the double red doors of the newly remodeled Hi-Lo Club in Lakefield. Under new ownership, Jim and Tresa Hussong have transformed the supper club with 1950’s rat pack fashion and excitedly opened the restaurant to the public on New Year’s Eve 2022.
“We wanted to honor the restaurant’s tradition of New Year’s Eve! Then Tresa’s vision was the creation of a warm and welcoming atmosphere the minute someone comes in the door and can see the fireplace at the end of the hallway,” Jim shared. “We love that we can open what has been an icon to the region since 1946.”
History of Hi-Lo Club
Following in the tradition of former owners like Lloyd Kruse, the Hi-Lo Club opened on New Year's Eve. The Hussongs purchased the Lakefield favorite from Syd and Nadine Malchow, who bought the business in 1989 and added a popular off-premises catering service. The restaurant closed its doors New Year’s Eve 2020, after Syd began experiencing medical issues in August 2020.
During this time, the Hussongs, who own Kozy Heat and were in the process of opening Dudley’s Garage in Lakefield, reached out to Nadine about her popular potato salad.
The conversation went farther than selling the potato salad recipe, as Hussongs officially purchased the Hi-Lo Club on Sept. 1, 2021.
“We had our first date at the Hi-Lo Club, so the restaurant has special meaning to us, but we bought the restaurant out of love for the town where we grew up,” Jim said. “We want to keep Lakefield strong and growing; if places like Dudley’s or Hi-Lo disappear, it most likely won’t ever come back. We want people to enjoy our beautiful community.”
Under leadership from Fagen Construction in Spirit Lake, the process took over a year to renovate phase one of the 75-year-old building. The entrance had a remarkable transformation, with the walk-up ramp and a side door being removed. The front is less narrow and now welcomes guests with rat pack artwork collages of James Dean and Frank Sinatra, glittery lights with golden leaves, and a faux tin decorative ceiling. There are welcoming benches along the side, while you wait for a booth or a table.
Katie Hansen from Revive! Interiors out of Lakefield did a remarkable job transforming the restaurant with greens and camel colors. She added wallpaper on the north wall and often said to Jim and Tresa, “Let’s try this!”
“Her vision was spot on, and we are so thankful to be able to use local businesses to help us transform the Hi-Lo Club,” Jim said.
The salad bar area has been replaced with a beautiful full-size bar. A Kozy Heat fireplace is centered in the middle of the room, surrounded by a cozy seating area and various size tables. The camel color 1950s-era chairs add sparks of color, while dark brown booths line the walls and handmade Cambria quartz from Midwest Minnesota beatify the many tables and the bar.
“It is really a Ritz-Carleton feeling that takes you back into the 1950s and creates a welcoming atmosphere,” he added.
Artwork on the walls feature Kirby Schultz of Sioux Falls, including the mosaics and a painted Marilyn Monroe.
Another major overhaul was the party room, as it was initially centered in the back southwest corner. Walls have been repositioned, and the space has been transformed into a gorgeous gathering space. There’s a large wide-screen TV centered at the back and a wooden buffet featured on the opposite side. Ornate ceiling fixtures line the ceiling and Nadine’s
candlesticks adorn the long, beautiful table.
“It will be a beautiful room for family gatherings or corporate events, with sliding doors that close off to create a private
space,” he said. “Certain
nights we will open up the buffet if the room isn’t being used.”
The next phase of the remodel includes transforming the basement, while incorporating the unique horseshoe-shaped bar, dance floor, and a working rock wall water feature. They envision live Big Bands and events in the speakeasy space.
“We are so grateful for all of the local businesses like Fagen, Countryside, and Hohenstein Electric to Katie Hansen and the City of Lakefield—all who have helped us transform this restaurant so we could open on New Year’s Eve,” Jim shared.
Delicious Food Features
The Hi-Lo Club has aways been known as a place to enjoy delicious food,and Chef Jagar Hobmeier loves having a large kitchen to create delicious food masterpieces. The restaurant will feature many of the same foods from the past, such as steak, fish, lobster and pastas, but they have also added some eclectic food items like fondue in the bar area and a warm rock that cooks food at your table to add to the fun atmosphere.
Reservations for the Hi-Lo Club can be made at (507) 662-5992, and more information can be found on their Facebook page.
From Jim’s 1948 Oldsmobile welcoming guests as they pull of Highway 86 to the old Hi-Lo Club sign hanging proudly on the wall, the Hi-Lo Club will quickly become a favorite stop for people all over the region – just like the past 75 years.