Just as many people in the area are able to get out and get a line wet, there is a new store in Lanesboro, Minn., that can help them improve their fish stories.
Root River Rod Co. is now open in downtown Lanesboro, and not only are the owners and the business interesting, but the building which houses the new business has an intriguing history as well.
Steve Sobieniak and his wife Vicki McKinney “have been coming to Lanesboro for 25 years,” states Sobieniak, saying, “We always liked the town” and enjoyed the surroundings.
“We came down last summer, saw a for sale sign on this building, and called up and got a showing on it, and one thing led to another and next thing you know, we are owners of it,” Sobieniak explains. The couple purchased the building in November 2016.
“I think it scared a lot of people because mechanically it needed updating,” notes Sobieniak but, “after 40 years in the construction business the building didn’t scare me away,” he said. With such a wealth of experience, Sobieniak was often a guest on the public television show Hometime with Dean Johnson.
Sobieniak has done a large amount of work on the building himself with a lot of help from his wife, and when necessary they are hiring 100% local contractors such as Huntington Electric, Vis Plumbing & Heating, and Fountain Building Center.
Sobieniak replaced the wood floors, which look fantastic, and will certainly be appreciated by customers as they walk in the front door of Root River Rod Co.
The building has been completely rewired, the attic insulated, some windows have been replaced, and new lights have been installed in the business.
The window air conditioner that used to sit above the front door has been taken out and the original transom window has been put back in it’s place, as there is now central air in the building.
Although the necessary updating is being performed, the new owners have a deep respect for the history of the building and are “saving anything original to the building that is possible,” states Sobieniak.
The building originally sat on the corner of the town square, but according to Sobieniak, the bank wanted to be on the corner so they moved the building over to make room for the bank. “Matt Bue bought the building when it got moved from the corner to here,” says Sobieniak.
Bue was a well-known photographer in the area at the time and Sobieniak says, “Matt Bue bought it in the late 1920s and he hired a St. Paul architectural firm to make it his studio and living quarters,” the result of which can be seen throughout the building.
“He was kind of eccentric and he did a really nice job,” says Sobieniak, “and a lot of that stuff is still here” for people to admire, including several light fixtures that represent a different era as they can be seen in photographs of the building from 1927.
There are two apartments upstairs, one of which the owners are currently living in, and although they are restoring the apartments, “we are not changing the character” of the space comments Sobieniak.
The original storefront will stay and for now the historic Bue Studio sign that adorns the front of the building will stay in place, although the owners have gotten permission from Lanesboro’s Heritage Preservation Committee to remove the sign. Once the sign is removed they plan on displaying it inside the business.
Mike Meyer – Sign Painter of Mazeppa, Minn., is currently creating a sign for Root River Rod Co., which will soon be hanging proudly in front of its new home.
While he and his wife are getting ready to open the business, “My passion is restoring the building right now,” states Sobieniak.
Another thing he is passionate about is fishing, saying his dad “got him started” fishing at a young age while being raised in New York. The Catskills in NY have “some streams very similar to the ones around here,” states Sobieniak.
Since his parents moved to Oregon 25 years ago, he has also enjoyed fishing for trout there several times a year, and spent a lot of time fishing while living in Colorado for 15 years and in Minnesota the last 30 years.
Sobieniak and McKinney moved to Lanesboro from Victoria, Minn., and have two daughters and two granddaughters who are “really excited about coming down” to Lanesboro.
Root River Rod Co. will officially open its doors for business on May 1, 2017 and will have a grand opening sometime in the near future.
The business will offer flies and fly fishing equipment, rods, spinning rods, reels, lines, waders, apparel, lures, nets, accessories and more.
Sobieniak builds split cane bamboo rods and will be taking orders for anyone who would like to own a handmade quality rod. The bamboo comes from one province in China, Tonkin, and is “the only place that this particular bamboo grows,” he says.
Sobieniak’s love of fishing is evident as he says “my hobby is vintage fishing equipment” such as old fly rods “made by the master fly rod builders from the turn of the century up until now with the contemporary bamboo rod builders” and he is happy to show his collection to anyone who shares his interest.
Though Sobieniak will not be offering fishing guide services himself through Root River Rod Co., he will refer any requests for guides to local guides.
Residents and fellow business owners in the area have been very supportive of Sobieniak and McKinney’s new endeavor. “The whole community of Lanesboro has been extremely helpful and extremely friendly,” states Sobieniak, adding, “everyone with the city, the Heritage Preservation Committee, the museum – have all be very helpful” and welcoming.
People in Lanesboro have been very curious and they “come in all the time, come in the door and introduce themselves and offer any advice they may have” which they feel could be useful.
Many who stop in comment on how nice it is to see the building being restored while others are wondering when the business will be open as they are eager to see what items will be available.
“My intent is to represent trout fishing in Lanesboro” with the Root River Rod Co., states Sobieniak.
Root River Rod Co. is located at 116 Parkway Ave. N. in Lanesboro. For more information phone (507) 467-2101 and visit rootriverrodco.com or facebook/rootriverrodco.