The exterior of Emily’s Eatery. | KELSEY ROSETH
Knife River—A young couple is breathing fresh life into a historical North Shore building in Knife River, and have now opened Emily’s Eatery in the space formerly occupied by Lighthouse at Emily’s. Backed by a small group of private investors, Duluth natives Evan Rollo, 25, and Chloe Dryke, 24, are managing the restaurant. They’re working to combine the location’s beloved, long-lasting history with modern meals and entertainment.
“I grew up coming here,” said Dryke, referring to Lighthouse at Emily’s, which is located on the mouth of the Knife River, across from Great Lakes Candy Kitchen. “I remember sitting in the corner room and looking out over the river,” she said.
The former establishment was run by four locals and closed in 2015 due to the owner’s intent to sell the property. The bright, cheery building has history dating back to the 1920s, when it was a general store operated by locals Emily and Sig Erickson.
“We really want to keep the history going here because it’s a really cool story,” said Rollo.
Emily was 13-years-old when she immigrated from Norway by herself, and eventually settled in Knife River. After she married Sig and opened the store, the pair added living quarters to the back of the building and began renting rooms and serving meals to travelers. Over the years, the building served a few different purposes including a post office, filling station and a bed and breakfast.
Today, Rollo and Dryke have made the living quarters over the restaurant their new home, along with their miniature Australian shepherd Junie.
“We want it to feel like we’re inviting people over for dinner in our own house,” said Dryke, and that philosophy will apply to the operation of their restaurant. “No guest will come through the door without being greeted. That’s our number one priority.”
The cozy eatery is planning a nautical theme, and will prepare homemade offerings that are locally sourced, including fresh-caught fish from Lake Superior.
“We’re keeping the fishing village alive,” said Dryke.
Emily’s Eatery serves American favorites during breakfast, lunch and dinner, and all meals have a creative, modern twist.
Over time, they plan to add front porch seating, fire pits in the backyard, and landscaping on the property. Eventually, they’re hoping to rent out the venue for weddings and other parties. They also mentioned that the North Shore Scenic Railroad is considering a potential destination stop in Knife River in the future.
As the pair got ready to open the restaurant, they say about 20 to 30 people drop by each day—either Knife River community members or curious passersby.
“We feel very welcomed,” said Rollo. “They’re always stopping by to offer help, and checking in on us,” Dryke added.
Aside from managing the restaurant, Rollo is planning to complete his thesis and graduate with his masters in rural healthcare and business administration from the College of St. Scholastica this winter. Dryke received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the same college. Most recently she was teaching at North Shore Community School, where she’ll now work as a substitute teacher.
For the latest information on Emily’s Eatery menu and hours, visit: emilyskniferiver.com.
By Kelsey Roseth