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Park Rapids downtown landmark torn down this week

The demolition of Wimpy's on the third block of Main stirred many a memory this week, the landmark noted for its burgers and catering to the customer. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Wimpy's, Park Rapids' landmark eatery for decades, met the wrecking ball this week, owners Bernie and Robin Cunningham dismantling the building on Main.

The work has stopped people on the street, the Cunninghams said of former patrons and employees sharing memories of the five-cent burgers, playing pool and then migrating down to the movie theater on a Saturday night.

Many remembered the bistro remained open after the bars closed, a throng of famished folks arriving for a burger before heading home to bed.

Plans call for the site to be the location of the Smoky Hills Gallery next spring, Robin Cunningham part of the original artisan community. Wood from the Smoky Hills will be used in the building's construction, she said.

The gallery will feature commissioned art, jewelry, crystals and rocks and lapidary equipment. She plans to offer workshops and apprenticeships.

"Park Rapids is becoming an arts destination," she said of the decision.

Bernie Cunningham, owner of Northern Wood Specialties cabinet shop, said they initially planned to remodel the building, but were advised against it.

"I remember walking by this as a kid," he said, no doubt fascinated by the notion of a restaurant named after Popeye's soft-spoken buddy.

The Cunninghams are among the downtown businesses approved to receive a Small Cities Development Program forgivable loan for the project.