The name brought Amber Cox and Mike Stenkel to the newly-opened Winchester and Rye in downtown Victoria.
But it’s the food, drinks and atmosphere that will keep them coming back to the unique restaurant and bar, which also has its own whiskey lounge.
“It has so many different areas, which are all pretty cool,” said Cox, 32, of Minneapolis. “We like coming to the southwest area of the cities and stopped in because the name kind of intrigued us.”
Stenkel, 35, of Richfield, said the two spent some time in the whiskey lounge after a “really good meal. We liked the lounge area, where we could chill out a bit more. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back with friends to revisit this.”
That’s the kind of reputation owners Kim and Kevin Heenie want for their business.
“We want it to be a place where people get a really good meal and enjoy the experience,” Kim said. “Victoria has so many good places and we think we add something different; something that people are and will continue to enjoy.”
The Heenies, who have lived in Victoria for 28 years, ran Island View Dining in Waconia from 1991 to 2016 until their lease was not renewed.
The couple worked several other jobs before being contacted by real estate agent Mary Meuwissen, who has owned the property since 2005. The property became available when Enki Brewing Co. moved to another Victoria location.
“When the opportunity came for us to come over here, it was like when a door closes a window opens,” Kim said. “Mary was amazing to work with.”
The building was expanded by adding patio and extra seating areas, along with the lounge, but a number of former outside walls and other age-indicative items were retained to preserve the architecture and uniqueness of the former Victoria Creamery building.
“We did the best we could to try and keep some of the history of this building,” Kim said, pointing to an old rail that once held creamery vats, and directing attention to old block walls.
Kim estimates that the square footage about doubled with the renovation project.
History is important to Kim and Kevin, who serves as the restaurant chef. It’s that history that led to the Winchester and Rye business title.
Kevin’s grandfather, a renowned gunsmith recognized mostly on the East Coast for his custom, handcrafted work which ended up in the hands of multiple celebrity entertainers, athletes and politicians.
Kim’s family history includes great-grandparents who were recognized for making tasty rye/corn whiskey, even during Prohibition.
“We have some great stories of our ancestors and we wanted to honor them for sure, so that’s where the name came from,” Kim said, noting that plans call for both families to be honored with displays in the bar area.
Irma and David Regan of Chaska recently stopped for a couple of cocktails and appetizers, but more to see renovations to the building that now has a capacity of 303 customers.
“We were visiting our granddaughter in Waconia and thought we should stop in and check it out,” David said. “We loved it. It was all wonderful.”
“We’re going to take a tour of the place,” added Irma. “It will be so nice to look around and see all the changes.”
Mike Horn and Liz Gall Hanson of Minnetrista, recently made their first appearance at the establishment, which opened in mid-May.
“We used to come to Enki Brewing when it was here, so I thought we would stop in to see what the new place is like,” Horn said, noting that the late lunch idea was a surprise to Gall Hanson. “We like coming to Victoria.”
“This place looks very nice,” Gall Hanson said. “I like the patio.”
The Heenies are hoping an appealing and diverse menu, a whiskey lounge that offers a number of local and area wines and whiskey blends, and an energetic and efficient staff will create a positive buzz about the business.
“This has been a big challenge and once it settles down, it’s going to be a lot better for everybody,” said Kevin, who’s worked as a chef for several decades and who produces a number of homemade recipes. “It’s really fun and I enjoy working with everyone in the kitchen.
“I’d really like to get into doing more specials and would really like to start doing breakfasts, but we have to wait until everything else is settled,” he added.
About 20 of the 75 employees are considered kitchen staff, with the vast majority of the employees part-time.
When asked about menu favorites, Kim and Kevin rattled off a number of fish-related specialties, as well as wood-fired pizza and uniquely-named burgers, including the Sweaty Betty Burger and Eddie Burger.
“We want to be known for great food, great prices and a really good atmosphere,” Kim said. “And we have a great staff; young and eager to learn.
“What has kept us going is the great group of family and friends, who have been with us since the beginning,” she added. “Their support has been huge.”
The Heenies expressed appreciation for the Victoria business community.
“Everyone around us has their own unique flair and I think we help each other out,” Kim said, referring in part to neighboring restaurants. “There is so much in Victoria, which is a destination.”
The Heenies are hoping their business, with its 102-year-old centerpiece structure, is on its way to success.
“I’d like to stay busy for the next 100 years if I can,” Kevin said with a laugh.
“I really like the whiskey lounge. It’s really relaxing and it has that cool, long purple couch,” said customer Sam Gingras, 47, of Chaska. “I think I’ll come here for the Vikings games and see if that sofa has any magic in it.”