Grand Rapids investors plan brewpub in Old Central School

Old Central School in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. PHOTO: Old Central School Facebook Page

Old Central School in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. PHOTO: Old Central School Facebook Page

A Grand Rapids, Minn., bank executive and the president of Magnetation are teaming up to bring a brewpub restaurant to the first floor of the Old Central School in the Itasca County seat. Ed Zabinski, a city councilor and vice president at Grand Rapids State Bank and Matt Lehtinen, chief operating officer of the scram mining company Magnetation, formed Northrock Developing Corporation to spur the development. The Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority is working with Northrock on a development deal. Additionally, Zabinski and Lehtinen will be looking to partner with an executive chef and third partner to complete the deal.

Beth Bily, co-publisher of Business North and the Scenic Range News Forum, broke the story.

“There’s a glaring need for a good restaurant downtown,” said Lehtinen, adding that the vision was a mini version of Fitger’s, located in downtown Duluth. “We intend this to be a cool place to eat and gather.”

The business partners say initially the establishment would be a restaurant, like a gastropub, but might later expand to include beer brewing.

The potential development fits well with defined goals for the structure. City planners have long hoped for a restaurant to drive traffic into the building.

Grand Rapids is a Northern Minnesota hub — woods and waters to its north, south and west; the western Mesabi Range to its east. Retail development has steadily grown over the past 20 years, but the city’s downtown is penned in by two highways and a paper plant. As Lehtinen said, the downtown sees a lot of traffic but doesn’t feature a major dinner restaurant.

The Old Central School was the city’s first school, and a beautiful example of an architectural era now long gone: complete with elaborate staircases and wood floors throughout.

Read Bily’s story for the full scoop.


  1. Paul Peltier says

    Finally! Beer at school. I’ve been waiting so long for this day!

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