ST. PAUL (WCCO) — An early morning fire destroyed a popular St. Paul bar and restaurant. The fire started around 3:30 a.m. in the kitchen at The Nook located on Hamline Avenue, across the street from Cretin-Derham Hall High School.
“At four o’clock in the morning, we heard it second-hand from our landlord,” said co-owner Mike Runyon.
“Yeah, it’s hard. It’s a tough day,” said Ted Casper, the other half of the ownership team. “It affects a lot of people other than just me and Mike.”
The Nook has been around since 1938. Runyon and Casper, whose fathers are best friends, were only 20 years old when they bought The Nook back in 2000.
“It was a lot of fun and a lot of butterflies back then, and we were able to make it work,” said Casper, who grew up in the restaurant business.
Since Casper and Runyon took over, The Nook has become known as a great place for burgers. Their specialty was the Juicy Nookie, a burger stuffed with cheese.
The Nook was even featured on the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
“Wow, that’s a ton of flavor,” said host Guy Fieri as he bit into one of the Nook’s burger.
On Tuesday, hungry people arrived at The Nook expecting to eat some of the famous burgers. Instead of ordering a Juicy Nookie, they saw a condemnation notice on the door.
Mariah Howe came from Owatonna to celebrate her 17th birthday at the Nook. Her sister, a University of Minnesota student, vouched for the place.
“We’re like, ‘Megan, what’s a good place in the cities that we can come have lunch with you?'” said Howe. “And she goes, ‘There’s this great burger joint that’s like famous around St. Paul called The Nook, come up here and you’ll just like it.'”
The owners plan to rebuild The Nook and open again at Randolph and Hamline Avenues.
“We won’t quit. We’ll fix it, but it’s just, we have to start all over,” said Runyon. “Just another story in the long life of The Nook, I guess.”
No word on the cause of the fire yet, although the owners believe it may have been an electrical problem.
Until they rebuild, Runyon and Casper hope to find hours for their employees at their other restaurant, Shamrocks. The pair also owns the Ran Ham Bowling alley next door. They expect to air it out and re-open in a couple days.
Paula Engelking, Producer
WCCO-TV’s Amelia Santaniello Reports