Patti's building taking shape

DAVE THOMPSON | The Sun

Construction continues at Patti's 1880's Settlement after a fire in February of last year destroyed its restaurant in Grand Rivers. Management hopes to have the establishment rebuilt by August.

The outline of Patti's 1880's Settlement has finally taken shape a little more than a year after a fire destroyed parts of the Grand Rivers attraction.

Crews with Pinnacle Construction have finished framing portions of the building that had to be demolished, and the installation of the frame for a new glass atrium that connects the building is complete, said Ann Martin, marketing director for Patti's.

The atrium, Martin said, was work-intensive, but the results will be worthwhile.

"The timbers were cut in Vermont, and they traveled 1,100 miles to get here," Martin said.

The Vermont company installed the first part of the atrium over the course of five days, a culmination of a process that took 680 hours in total, Martin added. The new atrium will be home to the restaurant's hostess stand.

"It's gorgeous," she said. "It will be decorated year-round, and we're envisioning a huge Christmas tree in there."

The completion date on the project is fluid, Martin said, and that's common with large projects.

"You just never know, with the weather and the placement of the contractors," she said. "We would love to be open by the first of August, that's kind of a shooting point."

Aug. 1 would be well in time for that huge Christmas tree, as well as the rush of visitors the holidays bring to the restaurants. November, December and July are the attraction's busiest months, drawing thousands to the small town every year.

That rush means Patti's will also have to rebuild its staff, which numbers around 250 in the busiest seasons. It is actively hiring, and more information is available on the website, Martin said.

The fire damaged the building's upstairs offices, the Patti's dining room, and the kitchen that Patti's and Mr. Bill's restaurants shared. Crews started this week laying the tile for the kitchen, which must be finished before they can replace the kitchen equipment, she said.

"All the kitchen equipment will be brand new. All that stuff has to be up to code, and a lot of (the) equipment was water damaged after the fire," Martin said.

Attractions on the property, however, remained unscathed, and visitors have been able to enjoy the other features Patti's offers, including miniature golf, a gazebo that offers a popular wedding site, and the gift shops. Outdoor dining is also available at Hamburger Patti's.

With its famous 1-inch pork chops and homemade pies, Patti's Settlement has been a mainstay of Grand Rivers since Patti and Bill Tullar first opened their restaurant there more than 40 years ago. The building's unique décor and stained glass windows will also return once the construction has been completed, Martin said.

"It's going to have the same feel, no doubt," she said.

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