Sawmill Saloon Renovation Embraces The Range

I was honored that an enthusiastic Jen Zylka (General Manager) and Alissa Horan (Owner) had agreed for Jen to meet with Melissa Cox (Laurentian Chamber CEO/President) and I to give us a tour of the updates and to answer some questions we had about our loyal Chamber member’s 12-day remodeling project. As I entered Sawmill’s freshly renovated space, it had a revived energy I could feel immediately. New neon signs from their distributors glowed with pride on the walls. I was excited by the colorful display and amazing additions. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the custom lights and “saw blade table” made by RMS Tritec and the high top corner seating booths, but the new upstairs dining/party area really held my attention. It must be because I’m still a little kid at heart.

Previously only housing a pool table and a dart board, the expanded upstairs dining area now houses multiple thrilling arcade games. A once underutilized location, it now creates an energetic, family-friendly area capable of hosting larger parties. Jen shared that her original inquiry of new games built up and led to the decision of expanding the upper level entirely. Jen enthusiastically added that both guests and employees have been loving it.

The upper level “deck” overlook now also spotlights the historical mural of the Sawmill in prior years. Jen said that they now have twenty-two TV’s, Perpich having installed everything. The TVs’ placement on the wall over the downstairs bar area was strategically done so that patrons in the upstairs banquet room and overlook could view the on-screen happenings easily. Updated paint, new carpet throughout (installed by Floor to Ceiling), and updated lighting fixtures also adorn the banquet hall and side conference room, giving the space a refreshed presence. (Melissa and I were eager to host a morning meeting in their back conference room after hearing that they have projectors and other technical equipment to utilize if requested.) As we descended the second staircase into the main dining section, we were greeted with the nostalgic and notorious decor pieces that have long since furnished the walls of the beloved establishment. With all the exciting additions, it was no surprise when Jen told us that it was even busier compared to the previous years she had worked there.When we asked Jen why it was so important to use local vendors as much as they could for the project, she replied

Well, I’ve always been a local girl. You know the Range; we’re a close knit community and I just think it’s very important. We want the community to frequent us and I don’t know any better way than to give back to them as well . . . We were really lucky that we were able to do that.

She continued to point out that Hometown Electric, Sertich Plumbing, Pohaki Lumber, Mesabi Sign Company, L & M Supply and Dincau Construction were all local businesses involved in making this remodel a success and that is what doing business in our area is all about. She was also insistent of (and extremely appreciative of) all the hard work the staff had done during the duration of the renovation: sanding, staining, painting, moving everything out and cleaning it. Every single employee participated in the twelve day overhaul. She even admitted, “I think I slept here twice. We were really busy. I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been really great.”

When we inquired about her opinion on how she thought it will enhance the experience for the customers, she had no hesitation in saying, “I think just the ‘wow’ factor when you walk in; if you notice, you can really take in the entire building now.” Jen shared that they aimed at the same homey feel and appeal, despite it essentially being completely different. She hopes it causes customers to look twice to really take in the updates and new additions, including the twenty beers they now have on tap. Upon me commenting on the fun staff, owner, and customer photos framed on the wall by the bar, Jen responded that, “We’ve tried to keep a little bit of the old Sawmill, just make it new. Because we have been around so long people really like some of our history, so we just kinda classed it up a little bit and made it look more modern.” She hopes it feels warm and inviting when people walk in. She summed it up best when she said, “Like an Iron Range tradition. It’s our thing. I really feel like we did that with the remodel.” I believe the familiar, comforting atmosphere has only been enhanced with the loving touch of the owners, staff, and local businesses.

A long-time gem, the mural of the building, now has a even stronger presence to visitors

The new arcade area is sure to excite, kids and adults alike!

Old and new harmonize and enhance each other in the new, expanded upstairs space


Jen stands behind the newly expanded bar space, highlighting the 20 beers they have on tap

“Sawblade table” made by RMS Tritec


The dining area highlights all of the well-known favorites of the Sawmill decor that visitors love





A colorful display of custom lighting and amazing additions give a truly “wow” factor upon entering

Custom lighting made by RMS Tritec spotlights above the bar counter