WEST FARGO — Owners of Ole & Lena's Pizzeria at 3330 Sheyenne St. have announced the bar and restaurant will close for business July 31, 2021.
In a Facebook post Tuesday evening, July 13, owners Jon and Linda Long blamed the closure on their lease not being renewed.
"It is with great sadness that we have to inform you that due to circumstances beyond our control, Ole & Lena's in West Fargo will officially be closing on July 31, 2021. You have all been amazing with your support for a small family business and we will miss each and every one of you. Unfortunately, our lease is up at the end of the month and the landlord has made plans for our space that don't include us," read the post.
It goes on to say gift certificates and SaveCoin vouchers must be redeemed by the 31st.
The post ends with a thank you to customers.
"From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being our loyal customers for the past two years. We wouldn't have made it this far without all of you!"
On Wednesday, July 14, Long said he had been trying to get answers since April on whether or not his lease would be renewed. He hired an attorney least week to work on the issue, and found out Tuesday morning that he would not get his lease extended.
Long said the news is disappointing, particularly since he and his employees had persevered through Sheyenne Street reconstruction, followed later by the COVID-19 pandemic. The turnaround was dramatic and heartening, with nights during March and April that all of the tables in the restaurant stayed filled all night long.
"We've done a lot of hard work. That's what hurts. We went through the tough times" and now must close, Long said.
Long said he'll move out the kitchen equipment that he owns, as well as tables, TVs and other items, and put them into storage.
On a positive note, he said he's been contacted by a few people, who have suggested some alternatives for continuing Ole & Lena's.
The 65-year-old said he'd like to stay involved with the business, which he runs with his daughter, for a couple more years. But he looks at it philosophically, and says what happens will be up to a higher power.
"It's in God's hands right now," Long said. "He's got another plan for me if it doesn't work."
The Longs had been loyal customers of the pizzeria for years when they purchased the business in 2019.
Jon Long told The Forum at the time that he and Linda lived just a few blocks away from Ole and Lena's and had been visiting the pizzeria "pretty much every Friday night since 2005."
"It's a very long story on how we decided to take the plunge into the business world. The major motivation is we have some excellent employees and wanted to keep this restaurant in the neighborhood," he continued.
Shane Balken opened the original Ole and Lena's Pizzeria in Rothsay, Minn., in 2007. In December of 2018, Balken sold that restaurant. A second Ole & Lena's location operated in Fargo's West Acres Shopping Center from 2012 to 2015. The West Fargo location opened in 2014 in the former Goodfellas Pizza in Eagle Run.
Balken sold the West Fargo location in order to focus on his frozen pizza venture.
Balken announced earlier this month he had reached a deal to sell Ole & Lena's pizzas at Walmart stores across the Red River Valley. The pizzas are also available at over 60 grocery stores in the area.