Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream in Crookston has new owners

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

Crookston's Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor has new owners and they're ready for business. Jake Fee and girlfriend Ellie Koepp recently closed on the restaurant's purchase and the Times caught up with them for an interview.

When did you decide you wanted to pursue ownership of Happy Joe's? Did someone approach you? Did you hear it was for sale?

Fee: "I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and was looking into starting that chapter of my life and Craig Hoiseth at CHEDA called and said he was working with Rod Amiot and Bob Kresl on succession planning, and if we wanted to buy Happy Joe's and he set up the meeting and it just took off from there." 

How long did the process take? Was it difficult?

Fee: "I believe we started this process back in September of last year and yes it was difficult and frustrating at times. It was at the peak of Covid and everything just took longer than what both parties wanted."  

Are there special loans and grants out there for people looking to get into owning a business right now, especially a restaurant considering the pandemic and its effect?

Fee: "If you are a current owner there is some good programs and funding out there but unfortunately right now many lenders are not willing to lend to the food and beverage industry right now because of the vulnerability to COVID. I hope that changes soon because the interest rates at very low right now."

What are you looking forward to most in owning a restaurant and, specifically, Happy Joe's?

Fee: "When this opportunity came up, Ellie and myself really wanted to keep the ownership local. We love this community and hope to give back as much as we can."

Do you plan to work at Happy Joe's or will a General Manager keep the reins?

Fee: "I will be working every day and will take some of the General Manager duties and also float to where ever they need me. We have been so blessed to have great managers that have stepped up and taken on more responsibilities. We have such an amazing staff!"    

Speaking of working: I'm sure, like other businesses, there's a shortage of employees. How is Crookston Happy Joe's sitting? Always looking for help?

Fee: "We are always looking for help. Like many other businesses, we have had to close early a few nights and we are currently closed on Mondays. We need drivers, kitchen, and shift managers. We hope we can hire more help and get back to normal hours very soon."

Is there anything new or different you'd like to try with Happy Joe's? Something other owners/managers haven't done? Something other Happy Joe's restaurants do that Crookston hasn't done yet? i.e. Pizza drones? (Kidding)

Fee: "That is a good question. Pizza drones and driverless delivery are probably closer than we think.  But no, I don't have anything new planned. I would like to add a food truck back at some point and be a bit more mobile in the summer for fairs and different things."

Plans to take over any other Happy Joe's locations if it goes well in Crookston?

Fee: "It is very possible; I have always wondered how a Happy Joes would go over in the Cities so you never know!"

Jake Fee and Ellie Koepp with their children