DOWNSVILLE — Built as a boarding house for Knapp, Stout and Co. lumber mill workers in the late 1800s, John and Amy Stalter want to keep that history alive as well as offer a restaurant and tavern for all to enjoy.

The Stalters, of Prior Lake, Minn., bought the Timber Inn, formerly known as T.J.’s Inn, from John and Kris Widmar in late September. The Widmars owned it for about 39 years. The building has been a restaurant and bar since the 1940s.

After closing for a month to allow for cleaning and putting in new floors, ceiling, lighting and windows, the new owners see a bright future for the historic building.

“It has a lot of history,” Amy Stalter said. “That is probably a lot of why we bought it.”

Amy Stalter, who grew up in the Downsville area, recalled visiting T.J.’s Inn when she was young.

“We played pool,” she said. “What I really remember is the food John (Widmar) served. He would have bear feeds.”

The Stalters want to keep the rugged, rustic feel of the restaurant.

The bar, which was 100 years old in 1940 when it was moved from a Durand tavern, is a solid piece of history the couple love about the place.

They have kept the sirloin for two on the menu, which was a mainstay of T.J.’s Inn. A hand-cut 32-ounce sirloin for two including choice of potato, salad and bread costs $29.75 on Saturday nights. The Friday night fish fry with cod and shrimp costs $8.25 to $10.25.

Even though they want to keep the history of the restaurant, they do see potential for growth because of the picturesque beauty of the Downsville area along the Red Cedar River.

They plan to add a patio to the back of the tavern and restaurant to allow for an overlook of the beautiful river, Amy Stalter said.

In addition to the river, the Timber Inn is also near the snowmobile trail, the Red Cedar bike trail and work is under way to get a four-wheeler trail nearby by the local four-wheeler club, John Stalter said.

Amy Stalter not only remembers coming to T.J.’s Inn as a child, but the restaurant also catered the couple’s wedding.

“It’s brought us a lot of memories,” John Stalter said, noting he would come to T.J.’s during deer hunting season. “We’re finding people are coming back out again to the restaurant and rekindling friendships in the area.”

Don Heit, chairman of the town of Dunn which includes Downsville, said it is important to keep businesses open in the community to keep it alive.

“It’s a very historical town,” Heit said. “What they have done is quite nice. They seem to be drawing a good crowd.”

In fact, business is so good the Stalters recommend reservations on Friday and Saturday nights.

Breakfast is served Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting at 8 a.m. The kitchen remains open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sunday. The kitchen is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The staff at the Timber Inn is excellent, Amy Stalter said, noting the Friday night waitress, Trish Olson, has been there 27 years. Tammy Danziesen is the food and beverage manager.

Family members not only helped with the cleaning and remodeling, but several members also work at the Timber Inn.

Amy Stalter’s sister Tahnee Cummings is a waitress. Cummings’ children, Erica and Mitch Sand, wash dishes along with the Stalter’s 16-year-old son, Brock.

John Stalter is a real estate agent for Timber Ghost Realty and Amy Stalter sells software for a German software company. They have a log home near Downsville and eventually would like to move to it permanently.

“We have friends in the bar and restaurant business so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” John Stalter said. “We have a history with the building.”

Contact: 715-556-9018, pamela.powers@ecpc.com, @MenomonieBureau on Twitter