New wedding venue to provide Grand Forks couples with a local option
Northern Grand Forks has a new multi-purpose venue – one with a long history – that has been repurposed with the intention of keeping business in town and revitalizing the area.
Built in the 1950s and formerly Simonson’s Lumber warehouse, The Opal, at 920 N. 3rd St., is set to become a destination wedding venue capable of hosting events like corporate and private functions. It sat empty from around 2016 until Tom Wesley, principal architect at Icon Architectural Group, drove by last year and saw a chance and a challenge.
Wesley, part of the ownership group that bought the building, coined the property “Third and Nine,” not only for where the location sits at the junction of North Third Street and Ninth Avenue North, but for the opportunity it presented. Thus the football analogy.
“It’s an old building, and it’s like well, we’re either going to punt or go for it, and we went for it,” said Wesley.
Wesley had the idea of creating an event space in the location, and when he was approached by Sadie Gardner with her plan for a wedding site, he saw a good match in their ideas.
“Her venue is a fantastic fit for doing everything that we had a vision for that space,” he said.
Gardner has 12 years of experience in the wedding business and runs Sadie’s Couture Floral & Event Styling, on Second Avenue North.
The name “Opal” came from Opal Kunz. Born in 1894, she was a pioneer in aviation. Gardner’s 11-year-old daughter is interested in flying and is taking lessons.
“It’s something that Grand Forks is known for anyway, the aviation side,” said Gardner. “But then there is also the side of women involved in it, as well.
Gardner said recent trends in weddings are seeing people seek out unique venues for ceremonies and receptions, which has led couples to look outside of Grand Forks for a location.
“In the effort to keep that business here, I just happened to stumble upon this space and I wanted to see something in the north end and downtown area,” Gardner said.
The potential financial impact in keeping more weddings in Grand Forks is significant. After doing some research, Gardner said there were roughly 600 marriage licenses issued last year between Grand Forks and Polk County, across the Red River. Gardner estimates that if the average wedding has 250 people, at least 50 of those people would travel into the area.
“Between hotels, gas, shopping, going to restaurants and all of that, which they might do on a weekend, say they spend $1,000,” she said. “That’s $30 million in revenue that we could keep in our community, with our business owners.”
She describes the look and feel of the roughly 6,000-square-foot space as “urban modern.” The Opal can accommodate 300 people and has a bar, kitchen, space for a dance floor and dining, and outside patio space.
The Opal features the original hardwood floors, walls and rafters, from when the building was used as a lumber warehouse. Integrated lighting, tables and chairs, and centerpieces are provided in an effort to make the location a one-stop-shop for people looking for a wedding location.
Gardner has partnered with downtown restaurant Sky’s Fine Dining to provide catering for events held at the Opal.
“The variance of what they could serve is quite large,” said Gardner. “So if they want to do sliced filet mignon they can, or if they want to do an hors d'oeuvre party, they can.
Gardner said she has about 20 events booked starting in April, and she is looking forward to helping couples in Grand Forks keep their weddings local.
“I'm a big, big proponent of shopping local,” Gardner said. “So when I started to see that a lot of these weddings are leaving, I felt like it was just something to do to try to help boost our economy, and keep things local.”
Information on The Opal can be found at theopalgrandforks.com.