Sometimes business growth follows a carefully planned trajectory, set by a board of directors in a stuffy meeting room. And then sometimes you just get lucky.
Whitefish restaurateur Dave Sheeran, owner of Second Street Pizza, opened Mama Blanca’s about a year ago at a location on Central Avenue adjacent to the Remington Bar and Casino. On Dec. 13, he became the Remington’s new owner.
Sheeran is a friend of the former owner, Ted Spraul, but doesn’t pretend his purchase of the bar all went according to plan.
“I didn’t think Ted was ever going to leave,” he said. “I told him if the deal was right, I’d take it. He made the deal right, so I took it. I lucked out.”
Luck aside, Sheeran credits the growth of his ventures to the community, who he said supports his pizzerias in Whitefish and Kalispell, and Mama Blanca’s, a Latino-fusion restaurant, especially in between the peaks of tourism season.
“The town has accepted me into their midst,” said Sheeran, a Queens, New York native turned Whitefish resident about 10 years ago. “I’m super appreciative of that. They’re willing to give me a chance when I try new things.”
And new things are coming to the Remington, one of Whitefish’s more local watering holes. Mama Blanca’s is now expanding into the area where the Remington’s back bar once stood. Crews in recent weeks have been swarming the space between the restaurant and the bar to ensure Mama Blanca’s expansion is ready to open by Monday.
The back bar is now reconstructed with a hefty slab of reclaimed wood from an old bridge that stretched over the Teton River near Choteau. The area is now separated from the Remington with a wall of reclaimed wood, matching the interior design from Mama Blanca’s. Sheeran said the reclaimed wood will be a running trend in the bar, installed by J.L. Halverstadt of Wild Wood Eccentrics, who applied the same materials to the interior at the Haskill Station Grill.
On the Remington side, the entire bar will be overhauled to become what Sheeran hopes will be a hub for live music in Whitefish. He hopes to fill the void left behind by Flanagan’s Central Station, a former venue frequented by a breadth of musical acts.
“It was an awesome place to see a show,” Sheeran said. “Here we’re going to have more of a country, blues and Americana vibe.”
In the back, the open table space will transform into a dance hall, with new railing along the high-rise areas. A new stage is planned, the pool tables will move, and the shuffleboard table will be refurbished with reclaimed wood siding and leather.
Since the Remington requires the most work ahead, Mama Blanca’s is the current priority. With Sheeran now owner of the entire building, Mama Blanca’s now gets to use the same liquor license as the Remington. This means the biggest difference for the restaurant is table service for alcohol, Sheeran said. Previously, customers had to head over to the bar for a drink. The beverage menu at the restaurant will include sangrias, mojitos, and other drinks that follow the Latino-fusion theme.
Sheeran said Mama Blanca’s will open in its expanded form on Monday, Dec. 26, with the same hours, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Work on the Remington is going on hiatus between Christmas and New Year’s, which Sheeran refers to as “Hell Week.” He doesn’t have a set timeline for completing renovations on the Remington, but expects to have the new bartop on by the end of January.
The building in whole is about 16,000 square feet. Above the Remington and Mama Blanca’s is an apartment complex and an event hall. Sheeran said he’ll work to renovate those, too, but for now is focused on the ground level.
Sheeran said the time is right to reload the Remington with his vision, considering expansions and renovations at other local hotspots like Craggy Range and Tupelo, along with two new hotels recently opened in Whitefish.
“The whole town is on fire lately,” he said. “It’s a great time to get in. It’s going to be harder to get in after this surge.”
Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at email@example.com.