Renovations underway throughout interior, restaurant, lounge to reopen soon.

    "We're not holding back on anything. It's going to be all new stuff."

    For anyone familiar with the Northland Inn in recent years, which became an America's Best Value Inn franchise for a couple years before becoming the Crookston Inn recently, those words are music to the ears.

    The words were spoken by Todd Jacobson, new owner, along with his wife, Nicole, of what is now known as the Crookston Inn & Convention Center. He uttered them last week, a couple days before the deal officially closed on his purchase of the hotel, restaurant, lounge and convention space from longtime owners Bhupen and Amy Ray.

    "It's going to be pretty much all new rooms, beds, bedding, paint, new flat screen TVs, new pool paint, a total redo," Jacobson said. "We'll target the interior work first because we want people to walk in and know that things are way different, and once that's all done we'll start focusing on the exterior of the building."

    There's a third facet of the work to be done at the lodging facility, and Jacobson is well aware of it. "I'm going to change the perception," he said. "This is going to be your new Crookston Inn & Convention Center, and whether you're staying in one of our rooms, meeting friends in the bar, having a meal in the restaurant or hosting a meeting in one of our meeting facilities, it's going to be clean and high-quality and you are going to experience the best customer service."

    Jacobson has learned a thing or two about customer service over the last dozen or so years, as general manager of several Fargo and Grand Forks Happy Harry's liquor stores, owned by Hal Gershman. "He's the best customer service guy there ever was," Jacobson said. "I helped build all of his new stores, and to Hal they are just buildings; it's the way you run them and what you offer your customers that counts."

    That doesn't mean the Jacobsons are completely new to the lodging industry. They come to Crookston from Lakota, N.D., where they purchased a hotel in similar need of a physical and mental makeover. "It was the same situation as here, basically, and we fixed things up and turned things around," Jacobson said, adding that they eventually sold that facility. "I'm a firm believer that if you build it they will come, or in this case, they'll come back."

    Jacobson is currently consulting with the staff to determine who will remain and who won't, and he's seeking applicants for various positions. A new restaurant manager is on board who will revamp the menu. In the meantime, the Whistlestop Lounge and University Station restaurant remain closed down for a couple weeks during the transition.

    While the Jacobsons have grand plans, they're asking the public to be at least a little patient. While work is already underway, Jacobson said only so much can be done so fast. "It's baby steps, but every baby step is good," he said. "It's going to be exciting, it's going to be fun. I saw a challenge here but also a need here, and that's why we're here. There's no reason this place can't be busy every night."

    The Jacobson's have purchased a home on Castle Street in Sampson's Addition and their son, 8, started attending Highland School last week.

Exciting times
    Craig Hoiseth, executive director of the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA), assisted the Rays for some time as they sought to find a buyer and reach an agreement on a sale price for their business. He said he wishes the Rays the best, and added that CHEDA is "excited about new investment into our city and we look forward to assisting the new owners of the facility in any way we can."

    With record lodging tax revenue generated in Crookston last year, AmericInn Lodge & Suites planning an expansion this year and Cobblestone Hotel & Suites planning a groundbreaking Thursday afternoon on Crookston's north end, Hoiseth said the "Crookston hotel market is an exciting place to be."