The Eagles Club in East Grand Forks has secured its building and is looking to reopen when circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic allow.
The club, known as Aerie #350, had help in the form of an investment group made up of two Eagles members and a Grand Forks real estate broker. Soaring Eagles LLC bought the building earlier this year, and after refinancing, sold it back to the club. The service group was having financial difficulty due to declining membership, and the club closed in early March, before the pandemic fully hit.
“The Eagles do so much good for the East Grand Forks and the Grand Forks community,” said Michael Marcotte, a co-owner of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. “They have the gaming division, and all proceeds go to help out the community.”
Marcotte is one-third of Soaring Eagles LLC, along with Eagles members Vern Gornwicz and Gary Shields. Gornwicz had a personal reason for getting the club back on its feet.
“I have sentimental reasons about it,” said Gornwicz. “I met my wife there in the '50s, and it’s some place for older people to go and communicate -- just sit down and have a beer.”
Gornwicz said he would like to see the club return to a more lively state where people regularly gather to talk and have a good time.
“I like to play cards, and (I thought) maybe we can get the Eagles back and do card-playing again,” he said.
Still, there are a lot of hills to climb for the organization, with declining membership being the biggest. According to Shields, the club’s membership stands at less than 400, down from well over a thousand, years ago. Despite the decline in numbers, the Eagles are continuing to look for new members.
“All the service clubs have noticed a little decline,” Shields said. “The older population has changed the guards, so to speak. Now we're trying to keep our current membership and recruit younger members to come in and help grow the club.”
Towards that end the Eagles are in talks to lease the kitchen space to provide dining services for when it is able to open. The organization is also interviewing for a club manager. Shields said the 10,000-square-foot building is well-suited to hold events and ceremonies postponed or canceled by the pandemic.
“It’s a beautiful building,” he said.
Shields credits Marcotte for providing the funding to secure the building -- and help keep the club intact. Marcotte, Shields said, has offered assistance to the group over the years.
“Mike’s a hero,” Shields said. “Mike has consistently been working with the Eagles.”