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Published April 21, 2012, 11:30 PM

Women opening Wahpeton gift shop/café in honor of daughter

WAHPETON, N.D. – Annie Gjesdal used to tell her mom, Brenda, that she one day would live in the Queen Anne home with the blue wood frame, gable front and towering turret at 86 Dakota Avenue here. Annie never got the chance.

By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM

WAHPETON, N.D. – Annie Gjesdal used to tell her mom, Brenda, that she one day would live in the Queen Anne home with the blue wood frame, gable front and towering turret at 86 Dakota Avenue here.

Annie never got the chance.

The 18-year-old was killed in 2009 when her car was struck by a beet truck at a Wahpeton intersection.

But now, Brenda Gjesdal and Linda Kutzer are finding a way for Annie’s spirit to live on in the house she always admired.

The lifelong friends are remodeling the home into what will be a café and gift shop.

“I think she’s pulling us here, I really do,” Brenda Gjesdal said. “I think there has been some help from above.”

They plan to call it “Antoinette’s on the River.”

Although everyone knew her as Annie, Antoinette is her full name, a name shared by her grandmother, Brenda Gjesdal said.

Kutzer and Gjesdal, along with their contractors and Kutzer’s husband, are redesigning the main floor, which features an oval dining room and an original tiled fireplace, for dining.

The kitchen overlooks the Red River and a small park, giving the home “the best view in Wahpeton,” the women say.

The stairs by the front door, complete with the original ornate, wood-carved banister, lead to five upstairs rooms.

The women have painstakingly processed the rooms into areas for gift shop item displays and perhaps a reading room.

At least five stained-glass windows add to the romantic charm found throughout the home.

Kutzer and Gjesdal have repainted some rooms, but in others, decorative wallpaper will be kept, retaining the historical integrity of the building.

The gift shop will feature items from Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, the Primitive Décor line and items from local artists and craftsmen.

Brenda Gjesdal said Annie loved finding small eccentric shops and spending time exploring their treasures.

The women hope to be open in May, perhaps by May 24 – what would have been Annie’s 21st birthday.

Kutzer said the way things seem to be falling into place makes it feel as though Annie has been helping them along the way.

The 2,300 square-foot home was built in 1904, and once was home to the Rosenberg family, who ran a chiropractic practice on the main floor, according to city records. It later was converted to a bed and breakfast until the city purchased the home after the 1997 flood as part of its flood mitigation program, said Jane Priebe, Wahpeton economic development director.

The city eventually requested proposals for the home, and three projects were submitted, including “Antoinette’s on the River.”

The city decided to award the sale to Antoinette’s.

“I just think it’s going to be a good little area to have that kind of business,” Priebe said. “We feel it gives this space a new purpose while still maintaining the historic aspect and charm. I think it will become a popular spot for people to gather.”

As the work continues, the women say the possibilities are endless, such as adding dining to the wraparound deck or renting bicycles for rides along the river.

Parking is restricted in the area, but the women are hoping to work with the city to add spaces.

Although the home is not currently listed on the national register of historic places, Priebe said the property would be eligible if Kutzer and Gjesdal wished to pursue it.

Trying for ‘a little good’

The blue-eyed blonde graduated from Wahpeton High School and was studying nursing at North Dakota State College of Science when she died.

The two women plan to donate part of the proceeds from Antoinette’s to a scholarship fund in Annie’s name. It is something Gjesdal admits is still tough for her.

“I want to help other people to go to college, but I wanted to see her go, too,” she said.

Friends of Annie’s have already approached Kutzer and Gjesdal about working at Antoinette’s once it opens, and many have offered well wishes to their success through the Antoinette’s On The River Facebook page.

“It’s trying to get a little good out of a horrible, horrible situation,” Kutzer said.

The beet truck driver involved in the crash that killed Annie pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for running a red light and crashing into her car.

“To have a loss of this type, you can wallow in it, dig yourself a big hole and climb in it – and believe me, you want to do that – or you can try to go the other way,” Gjesdal said. “We’re going to move forward.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530