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Up from the ashes

In 2004 JOn and Linda Gaugert bought this building that was formerly Hillside Club, Toby's, The Scotsman and Michael's Supper club. From 1982 to 2004 it fell into this state of disrepair.1 / 2
The Gaugerts renovated the building and it will reopen as The Phoenix Event Center.2 / 2

An open house is set to announce the reopening of a building that has seen many celebrations since it was built in the early 1940s.

It is the hope of owners Jon and Linda Gaugert of Alexandria that it will be the site of many more celebrations in the years to come.

About the building

The structure was built in the early 1940s and operated as the Hillside Club until 1967.

It then operated from 1967 to 1972 as Jimmy Jenson's Hillside Club.

It was later sold to a Twin Cities family that leased it to various parties. Through the years it operated as several supper/night club entities, including Toby's, The Scotsman, and from 1979 to 1982, Michael's Supper Club.

The building sat vacant from 1982 to 2004 and fell prey to neglect and decay. While many people looked at it as an eyesore, Jon saw something else - potential.

"It was barely visible from the road," Jon noted. "In fact, the sellers had to come for a weekend to remove trees that had grown in front and up to all entrances to the building so we could take a look."

Instead of focusing on the building's current physical status, Jon focused on its potential, envisioning what it could be. They took a leap of faith and purchased the building.

"I remember just after the closing, I entered my new 'project,' sat on what was left of the stage, prayed with tears that strength would come and progress could be made to bring this property back to the public to serve and entertain once again."

After considerable renovation, Jon leased the building to Club One for use as a Christian youth center, which operated for more than four and a half years.

Although the building is no longer leased to the youth center, Jon still believes it has a purpose. They did some more renovation work over the summer - including the installation of a new hardwood bamboo dance floor - and are excited about the possibilities for their new endeavor - The Phoenix.

"The Phoenix is not a restaurant or bar," Jon explained. "It is simply a space for your event, whether it be a wedding, retirement party, reception, holiday party, business meeting, worship service, music concert, theater production, educational seminar, ballroom dance, family reunion, craft show, antique mall blitz and the list goes on."

A major road construction project underway during the past two years has been completed, providing exceptional access and visibility to the iconic building.

"This building had truly fallen into the cruel hands of time, weather and neglect," Jon said. "It is definitely named appropriately - The Phoenix (which means up from the ashes)."

Open house set

The Gaugerts welcome everyone to visit the new facility during their open house event set for Thursday, December 2 from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Friday, December 3 from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, December 4 from 1 to 5 p.m.

For information about The Phoenix, call (320) 766-8336 or e-mail

The entertainment

Following is the entertainment schedule during the three-day open house event at The Phoenix:

Thursday, December 2

• Open from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

• Sax Appeal from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

• Jefferson Carolers - 7:45 p.m.

• Food catered by Depot Express.

Friday, December 3

• Open from 3 to 8 p.m.

• Rainbow Strings from 7 to 8 p.m.

Saturday, December 4

• Open from 1 to 5 p.m.

• Jefferson Brass from 3 to 4 p.m.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

(320) 763-1211