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Somerset restaurant rises from the ashes

The Montpetit family resurrected General Sam’s on the banks of the Apple River. (Front row, from left): little boy, Breck Montpetit, Brooke Montpetit, Lizabeth Montpetit, Bryce Montpetit, little boy, Brody Montpetit; (back row) Baby, Amalie Montpetit, Brock Montpetit, Kelly Montpetit, John Montpetit. Photo by Tom Lindfors

A year ago at 2:34 p.m. Feb. 15, fire departments from nine communities responded to a fire at 128 Main St. in Somerset, General Sam's Sports Bar & Grill. The fire closed Main Street for five hours and when the last truck departed at 10:30 p.m., Somerset Fire chief Travis Belisle declared the building a total loss.

Feb. 16, 2017 a phoenix rose from the ashes when General Sam's, version 2.0, opened at its new location just feet from the banks of the Apple River. Following the fire, members of the Montpetit family were not exactly sure where they were going to rebuild.

"We were always going to reopen, it was just a matter of where," said John Montpetit.

According to Kelly Montpetit, some of the credit for the new location goes to a savvy vendor who suggested the riverside site.

The elegant solution stuck and last April, construction on the new restaurant began on the site of an existing concession stand at Float Rite Park. The existing structure allowed the Montpetits to build the new restaurant practically on top of the river and in the process consolidate all of their businesses on the property bordering the Apple River.

"It's just nice to have all our businesses together in one location," said John.

Four large glass overhead doors form the wall parallel to the river. They flood the dining room with light and can be rolled up to let the ambiance of the river flow right into the laps of patrons.

Capacity for the new facility is 400 plus and includes 20 large screen TVs, an outdoor riverside patio, and a continuous bar some 80-feet long with 48 tappers serving 24 different beers including local favorite, Oliphant.

"I think people love seeing the family down here. That's a big 'thank you' from us to the community. Everyone was upset when we lost the business uptown. Now they are excited about the new business. They come in to us see and we want to see them too, so we all try to be down here as much as we can," said Lizabeth Montpetit.

The Montpetits have taken advantage of the new start to experiment with their menu bringing back old favorites mixed in with first time offerings.

"We brought back a lot of favorites, like our beer and wings special. People love our wings and our burgers too. We've added some new really fun stuff including a wide selection of wines. We have cast iron skillets now that we do pastas in and brownies for desserts for the kids. We've really turned into a family establishment with lots of new kid-friendly items," said Lizabeth.

With an eye on next year's Super Bowl to be hosted in the Cities, the new facility will also allow the family to book and produce large corporate events as well as weddings. Six weddings have already been booked beginning in September. Packages will potentially include, in addition to the banquet facility, a honeymoon suite, bridal suite, groom's rooms, and use of a ceremonial sight right on the river. A website dedicated to marketing the wedding end of the business is in the works.

With the potential for year round business, the Montpetits are hoping to turn their family- friendly business into a Midwest destination in the years to come.

"We're taking one day at a time. We're very excited about it. Business has been absolutely fabulous, it has already exceeded our expectations," said John.

For more information and to book your reservations for Easter Brunch, Sunday, April 16, call 715-247-2471.