After many months of renovations and years of daydreams, the famed Woodbury House is now open to the public.
The Mad Hatter Tea Room and Eatery has relocated its longtime local business from downtown Anoka to the historic home.
The renovations and the relocation are still sinking in for owners Liz and Tim Koch.
“It’s overwhelming,” Liz said. “I feel blessed beyond words and I feel like there is still a lot of work to do.”
The Kochs are leasing the property from the city of Anoka, which purchased the Woodbury House last year from Anoka’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
“For me having this home open to our community is amazing,” Liz said. “We’re privileged to be the ones to do it.”
Renovations have been underway since late last fall.
The Kochs have been careful to preserve the home, built in 1857, while making the updates required for a public restaurant, something that was a constant challenge and a concern.
“Keeping the house’s integrity was a really big deal for us,” Tim said. “We worried a lot about changing things and keeping things as original as possible.”
The couple has countless hours of sweat equity in the project, handling all the cosmetic upgrades to the property while the city took care of the house’s systems including heating, cooling, electrical, and plumbing.
After an exclusive dinner event, The Mad Hatter opened for regular lunch hours the second week of May – right in time for Mother’s Day.
It has expanded its food menu and continues to offer the popular tea service. As more staff are added, Liz said the hours will be expanded to include evening dinner service, likely next month.
Many people couldn’t wait to see inside the riverfront home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I’ve been driving by this house since I was 5 years old, fantasizing about what it might be like,” said Julie Brigstad, who returned to her hometown from northern Minnesota for a belated Mother’s Day lunch with her mom, Cindy Cook, last Friday.
Liz said she is hearing that story over and over again.
“Everybody says that. I said that. I was just like them,” she said.
Jane Fero couldn’t wait to show the place off to her sister, Sue Beckwith, visiting from Wisconsin. The sisters met with Jane’s daughter, Rachel Riordan, and granddaughter, Annika, for a girls’ lunch in the main dining room.
The Kochs also recently were approved by the city to use the second floor as a private party room, already being regularly booked for wedding showers.
Koch first opened The Mad Hatter in the old post office building in downtown Anoka in 1999, sold it in 2001 and then bought it back in 2011.
Tea service is available Tuesday through Saturday, by reservation only.
The lunch menu has been expanded with the steak frites a popular menu item, along with the beet salad, Koch said.
The move has also come with the added bonus of having the entire family involved.
The Koch’s adult children Santana, 21, and Dylan, 22, both work at The Mad Hatter. Santana just graduated from Anoka Technical College last week, and Liz said she has her own following among The Mad Hatter’s regulars where she works as server.
Dylan has been very involved in the planning and design for the new space and is the executive assistant and event coordinator for the new tea room and restaurant.
“I never imagined having a family business, it wasn’t a big dream I had. But it’s been great to do this together,” Liz said.
The restaurant is licensed to serve wine, beer and set-ups. Wine prices range from $5-$12 a glass and the craft beer menu includes Grain Belt’s Nordeast, a nod to a former owner Charles Kiewell, president of Grain Belt Brewery, who bought the Woodbury House in 1936.
Changes are on the way for parking, which will include the repaving and striping of the former Carpenter’s Hall lot, as well as the addition of 20 spaces at the base of the home, where a garage now sits.
Two handicap parking spots are also available at the top of the home’s circular drive, in front of the garage doors.
There will also an addition of a set of stairs from that new parking lot, some landscaping improvements and tweaks so guests can enjoy the views from the home’s front porch, which is on the river-side of the home.
The Mad Hatter is located at 1632 S. Ferry St., Anoka.
Current hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Monday. Hours will be expanded once dinner service is available.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at email@example.com