Today I write this with a heavy heart as we say goodbye to one of the best businesses I’ve ever been a part of in Bismarck-Mandan.
The Colonial Motel was built 60 years ago on the Memorial Highway (formerly U.S. Hwy 10) near the entrance to the Liberty Memorial Bridge in Mandan, ND in 1960 for around $350,000 (which was “a lot of money back in that time).It was owned by a few before Myron & Donna Bauer took over in 1995 when it was then known as the Colonial Motel, Lounge & Campground. Myron was a larger than life man who had worked in car sales before entering the bar business, which brought in many of his previous coworkers & friends that filled the bar every single day for happy hour & after. It was a labor of love that the Bauer family took on, only to lose Myron a year later to a massive heart attack. After that time, Donna, whom had never run a business of her own, decided that this was something she was going to throw her life into along with her boys, Jeff & Jason. Jason, in high school at that time, began running the Colonial Motel & Campground in 1996 to help take some of the load off of his mom. There were many that doubted that Donna & Jason would be able to make the business prosperous, as we see 25 years later…they were wrong:)
I turned 21 in July of 1997, before which time, had done my fair share of “trying” to get into the Colonial before legal drinking age (anyone who knew Myron, knew he was not a man you could fool easily:), in February of ’97, I decided to try my hand at bartending…so I went in one cold, snowy day, Donna happened to be working, I asked for a resume which turned into a “makeshift” interview filled with us having Colorado Bulldogs, yacking our traps for hours on end & Donna saying “your hired” at the end of the night! I could never have known what the next 23 years would bring me because of that little ole bar on the strip in Mandan. You see…some may think it was just that…a little hole in the wall…but anyone who walked through those doors knows it was SO much more than that! I don’t know how many times over the years, I saw someone walk through the door, that anyone else in town would have kicked out, but not Donna…she saw good in every single person who crossed her path whether they were in need of a room to stay warm, a bus ticket to get back home, a drink after a long day or a hot meal and couldn’t afford it…Donna would let them take out the trash for her, wash a few dishes, show her their craft, like painting a "not so flattering" portrait of her...lol...in exchange for what they were needing at the time.
This woman was never featured as an “Inspired Woman”, but she sure should have been because its people like Donna that see the good in others & would give them the shirt off her back to make them feel important, if just for a day. Donna & Jason are part of the good hearted, honest, hard working folks that are the backbone of our community & make it what it is today. I could go on forever about the building at the end of the Strip in which I met my 2nd family & some of my lifelong friends, the amazing people we’ve lost along the way, the many, many, many 2 for 1 Thursday nights we packed people in like sardines…but I will simply say this…although the Colonial will soon be gone & won’t matter to some…there are so many of us who have spent the past few decades bellying up to the bar, having baby/bachelorette showers , Christmas, Birthday, Going Away, Anniversary parties upstairs, sitting on the patio listening to local bands play in the gazebo & the many nights of laughter & love inside those small walls that it will matter to & will miss it so very much.
Thank you Donna & Jason for who you are, for making a difference in our community for simply being honest, loving business owners in a world where so much of that is now lost. These are the things I will forever think about when I think of the Colonial Lounge. I wish Donna, Jason, BJ, Angie, Matthew, Josh & all whom were a part of your business for the decades you owned it, all the happiness in the world in your next chapter in life!
Love you all,