Gershman buys former Howe and Seaworth building in downtown Grand Forks

Local businessman says he is considering ideas for the building, including a steakhouse.

421 DeMers is the site of a new proposed business adjacent to the Empire Arts Center. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Downtown Grand Forks soon may be getting a new location for dinner and drinks, as Hal and Kathy Gershman have submitted to the city a Renaissance Zone Rehabilitation Project application to remodel the space at 421 DeMers Ave.

The building formerly housed the law offices of Howe and Seaworth.

For Hal Gershman, former City Council president as well as president of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops, the location is special, as he has family ties to that particular spot.

“It was not that building, but at that location -- with a wood-frame building -- was where my dad had his first liquor store, that corner,” he said. “It was called Central Package Store. Before he had the liquor store, he had a steakhouse there, and he closed that and opened a liquor store.”

The idea of doing something at the location of his father’s former business was unique, and harkened to an earlier time in Grand Forks at the corner of North Fifth Street and DeMers.


“For me, it was closing a circle, because we’re celebrating 75 years of Happy Harry’s this year. So I was very interested in buying that property,” he said.

Gershman hasn’t finalized the concept for the space yet, though one idea connects him to his father’s history in town.

“We’ve got some thoughts on different things there, but one would be a classic 1940s-style steakhouse,” said Gershman, though he noted there are other ideas “floating around.”

The project was submitted to the City Council and approved on Aug. 5, as a Grand Forks Renaissance Zone project.

“Ren Zone” projects require approval by the city and the state, and Gershman says he is expecting the state approval notice soon.

The state Renaissance Zone program requires rehabilitation project owners to invest 50% of the full building value into improving the location. Upon completion of the improvements, owners are eligible for a five-year period of state income tax exemption on business income earned at the property. They also are eligible for a five-year period of property tax exemption on the value added to the property by the improvements.

The application process and preparing to remodel the building has gone smoothly, according to Gershman.

“The help from the city, Strata and the DOT has been really encouraging to us,” he said.


Strata also is the company doing the DeMers road construction downtown.

Cleanup and design plans are underway for the project, which is still in the idea stage.

“We’re in no hurry. Whatever we do there, we want to do it right,” Gershman said. “Make it interesting, more landscaping on the side of the building.”

The new business, should it be a restaurant, also could be a benefit to the Empire Arts Center, which it borders on the west side.

“I think it’d be good if we were to pull that off, a pre-show dinner on the menu,” said Gershman, who is a board member for the Center. He and his wife, Kathy, also are boosters for the center.

“There’s dreams, there’s reality, and what you can really make happen, you know,” he laughed. “But we’re going to try have some fun with it.”

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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