Dave Scheer, longtime Fargo-Moorhead restaurateur and supporter of the arts, dies in Bemidji
“I’ll always remember that smile. He made it all seem like everything would work.”
FARGO — When some people retire, they will pick up a part-time job just to stay busy.
When Dave Scheer retired after a long career as an engineer, he started a second career as a restaurateur.
Scheer helped expand the culinary palate of Fargo-Moorhead with Asian-inspired eateries that stood out from standard Chinese buffets.
Always busy with a project, Scheer died on Sept. 13, 2022, in a house he was building in Bemidji, Minn. He was 82.
A cause of death was not immediately known.
Scheer and his wife Pia moved to Fargo in February of 2005 to be closer to family.
Rather than settle into a relaxed retirement, Scheer threw himself into the community.
The couple had worked in hospitality in her native Thailand, so when she was interested in opening a restaurant, Scheer lined up a partner. Before things could get off the ground, that man backed out and Scheer’s son-in-law, Keng Dechawuth, stepped in.
In November of 2005 they opened Thai Orchid in the old Hardee’s location on First Avenue in north Moorhead.
The restaurant immediately developed a following, eventually prompting a move to a bigger, busier space in the Moorhead Center Mall where it still exists today.
Over the next decade, Scheer and Dechawuth opened a handful of other restaurants in Fargo including LeeLa Thai Cuisine, Drunken Noodle and Wasabi Sushi as well as another Drunken Noodle in East Grand Forks and Little Bangkok in Grand Forks.
Wanting to try something new, in 2012 the pair opened the steak-based restaurant and bar, Beefsteak Club just off Broadway on NP Avenue.
“We've been doing Asian-based restaurants since we started. We thought we'd stretch out into something new,” Scheer said at the time.
By 2015 they were starting to sell off some restaurants, like Thai Orchid, LeeLa Thai Cuisine and The Beefsteak Club, which they sold to former employees.
“We’re really happy about the idea of employees being able to get into the restaurant business without the huge costs it takes us to build a new restaurant,” Scheer told The Forum then. “We can sort of sell the restaurants on a time basis to them because we know they already can run them.”
Scott Motschenbacher cooked at The Beefsteak Club and was part of the group to buy it and turn it into Pounds.
He took to Facebook Tuesday night after hearing of Scheer’s death.
“Fargo-Moorhead quietly lost a big person, part of the food scene,” Motschenbacher wrote. “He was known as Uncle Dave. He was one of the founding members of Thai Orchid, Wasabi, The Beefsteak Club, and others. He was quietly a big part of what we have now. He will be missed sorely by myself and those that knew him. Thanks for everything Uncle Dave! RIP.”
Many who weren’t even related to Scheer called him Uncle Dave. The nickname is Thai in origin, Dechawuth said, explaining that “uncle” is a term of endearment given to revered elders.
While Dechawuth ran businesses day-to-day, Scheer was in charge of remodeling spaces and getting them ready for restaurants.
In 2017 they moved Wasabi from NP Avenue to the Second Avenue side of the old Metro Drug, just off Broadway. The following year they added the Hawaiian-themed Poke Bowl to that Kilbourne Group building.
“In the restaurant business, I don't think these days you can just sit still,” Scheer told The Forum in 2017. “You have to keep trying new things as tastes change and as the way you deliver your food changes.”
"He cares deeply about not only the food, but also the full experience diners have in his restaurants," Adrienne Olson, a spokesperson for Kilbourne Group told The Forum at the time, adding he and Dechawuth, “have been adding to the fabulous flavor of Fargo Moorhead.”
Scheer retired from restaurants shortly after that and started building his new house in Bemidji just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dechawuth now lives in the Bemidji area and still owns the Drunken Noodle restaurants.
“It is him behind my success” Dechawuth said in a Facebook post announcing Scheer’s death. “He had lived one heck of a life. He was an engineer, pilot, sailor, diver, runner, etc. He will be forever missed and remembered.”
While he was mostly associated with the restaurant scene, Scheer made a big impact on the arts as well.
Shortly after moving to town, Scheer bought the former Luger Furniture building at 716 Main Ave. and offered it to Theatre B when the troupe needed a new playhouse.
“We always thought of (Dave and Pia) as our angels,” said Carrie Wintersteen, co-founder and executive director of the troupe. “They dropped out of nowhere at a time when we needed a lot of support that they could provide.”
Scheer and Theatre B co-founder David Wintersteen, Carrie’s husband, worked tirelessly that summer to get the space ready for productions in the fall of 2005. Scheer’s development of the theater space was enough to earn him kudos in the form of a Prairie Rose in a Forum editorial.
“I’ll always remember that smile. He was always so warm and genuine and down to earth. He made it all seem like everything would work,” Carrie Wintersteen said.
Theatre B now gives out awards to outstanding supporters and volunteers called the Scheer Brilliance award. Wintersteen said the troupe would find an additional way to honor Scheer’s passing.
“He was a gentleman. He loved building this and fixing that,” Dechawuth said. “He inspired a lot of people.”
As per Scheer’s wishes, there will be no funeral or memorial services.
Scheer donated his body to education.