Historic Klondike Tavern in St. Helens reopens to the public
An iconic St. Helens business is beginning a new chapter on the riverfront.
After being shut down in 2018, the Klondike Tavern officially reopened Friday, June 24.
Owner Holcombe Waller said, "I bought the property to take on as a historic renovation and revitalization to house multiple businesses, the restaurant being one, the hotel being the other."
Waller envisions a 19-room boutique hotel which will interface with the restaurant space and patio.
Waller said, "I'm hoping it's going to become this resplendent little hospitality corner."
The Klondike, located where South First Street meets Cowlitz Street in St. Helens' Riverfront District, was awarded a $200,000 state revitalization grant from the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant Program to preserve, restore and update the St. Helens landmark.
The St. Helens Main Street Alliance vetted seven possible applicants in the St. Helens area and selected the Klondike for a final application.
"The Klondike building's funded proposal includes critical foundation and structural repairs, updated and repainted façade and eaves, restoration of the original hotel office and stairway, new restaurant porches, new dedicated restaurant entrance and signage, and improved exterior lighting fixtures," the alliance stated.
Waller said, "The grant money will begin to reimburse for qualified maintenance and improvements after July 1, so the community can expect to start seeing us working on the building."
With a strong interest in providing hospitality to a community, Waller said, "When I went out looking for a property, I was looking for a space to house people, like a hotel. This building presented itself as far bigger of a project than I ever imagined, but I'm just crazy."
Waller continued, "I decided it was possible for me to, kind of, take steps and figure out ways to finance each step. … I'm not a person bringing cash to the table, I'm bringing the ability to finance each chunk to the table."
In a news release, Erin Salisbury, president of the St. Helens Main Street Alliance, said, "We are thrilled that the St. Helens Main Street Alliance was able to partner with the Klondike's owner, Holcombe Waller, to bring this state funding to a centrally located destination that has long been a part of our city's history.
"We are poised for rebirth in our commercial core and these upgrades will be a visible sign that it's time to reinvest in downtown St. Helens."
Waller said the Klondike Tavern will feature freshly prepared, hearty Pacific Northwest cuisine, including steak and seafood.
"We're trying to go for really approachable standards," he said. "We have amazing pork chops. We have incredible fried chicken. We have a delicious prawn dish. We have house-signature meat loaf."
Waller added, "We're trying to meet the community where they're at. My understanding is that the Klondike was always the place to take your date or invite your person to ask them to marry you. It's kind of a special place. We're trying to create that slightly elevated experience."
Waller sees the importance of revitalizing the corner where the Klondike is located.
He said, "I am, at the highest level, hoping that what I'm doing at that corner is an extension of what all the businesses and property owners have been doing in historic downtown for over a decade, which is trying to reinvigorate what has been a kind of declining, industrial downtown, to become a beautiful, cultural hub for the county, with shops, restaurants and parks."
Waller continued, "I'm hoping to, really, just do my part to lift that entire process up and forward. … We really want more people coming down for dinner or to shop. I think that riverfront is just such a beautiful place. We're just trying to do our part to give everyone one more reason to come and enjoy something in historic Old Town."
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