By Dan Crisler
Walk into downtown Watertown’s Goss Opera House these days and you’ll feel like you stepped back in time.
After more than a year of reconstruction and renovation totaling approximately $5 million, the 130-year-old iconic building originally built by Charles Goss has been restored to its former glory.
Although there are still some odds and ends to be done, the restoration has turned a building that had seen better days to once again being a crown jewel in the heart of downtown Watertown.
With a delayed grand opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enough of the Goss has been completed that it held its first concert — preformed by local band Greg Hanson and The Backroads — in the restored opera hall, known as the Reliabank Theater, Friday night.
“I would say our side of the building is 99.9% complete,” Goss Opera House Executive Director Missy Sinner said this week. “We have worked and are working as many hours as we possibly can and working as hard as we can.”
For most of the last year, the Goss restoration looked very much like a work in progress. The nonprofit organization Friends of the Goss began the restoration with the help of donations after having purchased the building on Dec. 31, 2018.
With extensive construction work dating back to at least last summer, Sinner said she felt the building’s restoration achieved full realization last month.
“I would say probably about one month ago I felt like the building was almost done,” she said. “There were finishing touches and backordered items that would come in one at time. As they came in, I would find myself thinking, ‘Wow, that room looks really great!’ or ‘That looks finished.’”
The Goss’ full historic restoration makes it difficult, and perhaps impossible, to pinpoint one particular element that stands out.
But if a single room perhaps captures the entire vision of the Goss’ turn-of-the-century elegance, it’s perhaps the opera hall highlighted by a replica 19th century chandelier.
At the same time, Sinner and the Friends of the Goss Board of Directors made smart concessions to modernity within the opera hall with new stage lighting and a top-of-the-line sound system in the hall. Those concessions extend throughout the building, such as automatic faucets in the bathrooms and motion-sensing lights, to allow for energy efficiency and enhance the elegant atmosphere.
“We headed toward a historical flair on anything we chose,” Sinner said. “But we definitely wanted to integrate technology into the building.”
Sinner said crews are still waiting on three pieces of furniture for the bride’s room on the Goss’ second level, as well as radiant heat panels. Delivery has been delayed due to the pandemic.
“Everything else is done so we decided to move forward on the Goss side,” she said.
Sinner said about 25 concerts and performances have been booked. She said the Goss plans to sell season tickets for the fall through spring months. Sinner said the opera hall will be open in the summer months for reservations such as weddings and other social events.
A combined grand opening between the Goss Opera House and its anchor restaurant, Mavericks Steaks and Cocktails, will be Sept. 25. The grand opening will feature free tours of the Goss and a performance from the NashVegas All Stars band.
Mavericks makes progress
As renovations on the Goss Opera House wrap up, its main tenant, Mavericks, is not too far behind.
According to Mavericks General Manager Kyle Lalim, the opening of the anticipated restaurant and lounge has been slightly delayed due to logistics exacerbated by the pandemic.
As crews continue to renovate the space and get other equipment installed, Lalim said that process should wrap up in the next week or so.
“The end is getting near so that’s a great thing,” he said. “New restaurant openings always have that high level of anticipation. When you couple a new restaurant that happens to be an anchor tenant in the Goss Opera House with what the Friends of the Goss have been able to accomplish, it just amplifies that excitement for our opening. We just want to make sure that when we do open our doors, we can deliver a level of service that Mavericks has been known for.”
At this point, the soft opening date is fluid. Lalim said it will be announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page — facebook.com/MavericksWatertownSD. It’s possible the restaurant could open in late August or early September.
Mavericks also has locations in Aberdeen, Deadwood and St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Soon to follow are the implementation of restaurant operations. That includes hiring and training staff set to be led by two experienced kitchen managers. Ben Richardson will be the head kitchen manager and Robert Johnson will be the assistant kitchen manager.
“Both of those guys have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in both the restaurant and catering industries,” Lalim said, adding the two men have more than a dozen years of kitchen experience across the nation.
Lalim said Richardson and Johnson will be valuable in leading and guiding staff to prepare Mavericks’ fresh menu items.
“Mavericks makes everything homemade,” Lalim said. “We make our own croutons and salad dressings. We cut our own steaks and grind our own burgers. These guys are just a great fit to our team and fit our business model perfectly.”
Lalim said Mavericks management and ownership want the Watertown branch to have a soft opening prior to the combined grand opening with the Goss. The soft opening will include appreciation events and celebrations with Mavericks employees, contractors and associated family members.
Mavericks will operate its main restaurant on the Goss’ first floor and a second-floor kitchen to serve guests attending Goss opera hall events and associated meeting rooms.