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A symbol of spring: Gordy's Hi-Hat opens for 63rd season

Regular and new customers lined up before the Cloquet establishment opened its doors for business at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 22.

Man takes order for food
Dan Lundquist of Gordy's Hi-Hat, left, takes down the first order of the Cloquet drive-in's 63rd season on Wednesday, March 22. Eric Stevenson, right, of Duluth, was in line for over a hour despite the snowy, cold weather.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

CLOQUET — Spring has yet to show up in Cloquet, but Gordy's Hi-Hat continued its tradition of marking the season's beginning when its doors opened Wednesday, March 22.

Despite the snowy, overcast and rainy weather, customers lined up before the restaurant opened at 10 a.m. — some showed up before 9 a.m.

Burgers, chicken tenders and pop sit on a tray waiting to be picked up
An order is ready for dine in at Gordy's Hi-Hat in Cloquet on Wednesday, March 22.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Owners Dan and Sever Lundquist were back in action taking orders and making shakes for customers as they shuffled through the door.

Each of the first 50 customers was greeted by Dan Lundquist, who took their order, thanked them for stopping by and received a free T-shirt from Danny Lundquist for being one of the first customers.

Vickie Price, one of the first customers, exclaimed "The smell!" as the door opened and she entered Gordy's for the first time this season.

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"It is just the aroma of the onions and the goodness you are about to eat," she said. "You can smell it when you go by here all summer long — it is the best smell ever."

Baby sits in carrier holding a Gordy's Hi-Hat T-shirt
Makenna Lutzka, 4 months old, of Duluth, was the youngest patron when the doors opened on Wednesday, March 22, for Gordy's Hi-Hat's 63rd year.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Price said she does not usually come to opening day, but decided to stop by if the line wasn't down to the St. Louis River.

While waiting in line she also checked in with her grandson to see when his lunch was so she could pick him up a cheeseburger — she said his response was an enthusiastic yes.

Dan Lundquist said the persistent snow made it one of the hardest openings in years, as he has had to focus on snow removal and not what the Hi-Hat is known for — food.

That being said, to ensure the restaurant's usual quality, Dan Lundquist changed his focus over the previous week to make sure they were prepared for the opening.

The sign out front read the opening day was set for March 22, and for people to "bring a shovel."

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Prior to opening, Dan Lundquist said a couple of people reached out to him and asked if they could trade shoveling snow for a free cheeseburger, something he thought about depending on how much more snow is on the way.

Sever Lundquist joked that with all the snow, Gordy's will likely get its first snowmobile customers to use the picnic tables outside.

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Both Dan and Sever Lundquist said there was a sense of relief to get open, after dealing with preparations and the anxiety before the big day.

The Hi-Hat goes dormant for much of the winter, and Sever Lundquist said preparations include stripping the insides down and adding a fresh coat of paint before the new season.

"When we open for the spring there are things that we think are in the right place ... once we get moving the muscle memory kicks in and then we realize things aren't in the right place," he said. "Once you get moving it feels good, like everything is getting into sync."

Man hands out free T-shirts
Danny Lundquist, left, hands out free T-shirts to customers at Gordy's Hi-Hat on Wednesday, March 22. The first 50 customers received free T-shirts. By 10:30 a.m., only five shirts remained.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

A lot of the customers who line up before the Hi-Hat opens are regulars, and Sever Lundquist said it is always great to see their faces again.

"Old friends and customers we have gotten to know well over the last 63 years," he said. "It is just a lot of fun to see everybody."

Eric Stevenson, who was Gordy's first customer Wednesday, said the opening day is like his Black Friday.

While Stevenson waited for over an hour, some customers couldn't even wait for opening day, as Dan Lundquist said people were showing up and pulling on the doors as staff at the Hi-Hat were prepping behind the scenes.

Despite being from Duluth, Stevenson said he regularly makes the trip to Cloquet during the season to get Gordy's after he learned about it six years ago.

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"It symbolizes that summer is on its way and great food, too," he said. "It could be subzero and I would be out here waiting."

Man stands in front of a restaurant
Sever Lundquist stands in front of Gordy's Hi-Hat in Cloquet on Wednesday, March 22.
Amy Arntson / Cloquet Pine Journal

Dylan is a former reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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