OAKLAND — Fifty years after Carol and Terry Tollefson started Tolly’s Grill & Soda Fountain in Oakland, their son, Paul Tollefson, is planning to reopen the business this summer.
Paul Tollefson said he will bring back the old daytime menu with the original recipes, including the Creighton B. sandwich, Mode’s Reuben sandwich as well as Tolly’s pies and cakes.
“For everyone who remembers visiting Tolly’s, you can pretty much count on your favorite sandwich being back,” he said. He added customers won’t find a hamburger on the menu, as a neighboring business, the Lamplighter Inn, already offers a great one.
The evening menu, which he said brought people from all over the state to Tolly’s, will change regularly.
“Our focus is on locally-grown and sourced foods and we’ll be doing that again,” Tollefson said. He also plans to bring back a full entertainment calendar so customers can enjoy live music on an outdoor patio.
He said he’s working to get the building back into the shape his mother would want it to be in and hopes to open this July. In the meantime, he said customers can check the Tolly’s Facebook page for updates.
The Tollefson family had originally purchased the historic building, at 115 Locust St., with their friends, Don and Erma Mode, who started Mode’s Emporium. In 1968, the Tollefsons turned it into Tolly’s restaurant to offer sandwiches and later added a soda fountain.
The restaurant has gone through several different owners over the years. Tollefson said his family had sold it in 2001, bought it again in 2003, and sold it again in 2008. Five years later, the business had been foreclosed, so Don Knight and his family purchased it from the bank in 2013.
“They saw the value of the restaurant for the city and they wanted to keep it alive and open, supporting the local economy,” Tollefson said. “It’s really important to acknowledge the Knights for their contribution in keeping Tolly’s open and the name alive, it was a huge thing for them to do that.”
But the Knights were involved in the construction industry, not restaurants, so when Don Knight passed away the family decided to close the business and put it up for sale. The restaurant had been listed since summer 2016 when Tollefson decided to buy back the family business.
“It has been listed for over a year now and we decided we wanted to get it back open and running again,” Tollefson said.
According to the Douglas County Assessor’s Office, the restaurant takes up two parcels for a combined 5,764 square feet and has a total real market value of $385,936.
Tollefson, who grew up in Oakland, said he helped run the restaurant with his parents for some time.
“I grew up in the restaurant,” Tollefson said.
He said he and his wife, Abby Tollefson, will run Tolly’s, and his three daughters are excited to have the restaurant back in the family.
Also a mortgage banker in Tahoe, Paul Tollefson said he plans to split his time between Douglas County, Tahoe, and Marin, California, where Abby Tollefson runs her own business.
Linda West, vice president of the Oakland Economic Development, said she’s excited for the return of Tolly’s.
“It’s something we’ve been wishing for,” West said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Tollefson said Tolly’s had offered a great job opportunity for him and other people his age as they were growing up, and he’s glad to bring that back to town.
“It creates opportunities for people within the community, and hopefully their experience will be what so many people in the past have experienced as well,” Tollefson said. He added he’s interested in collaborating with Oakland High School in creating programs and encouraging students to pursue the culinary arts and the business world as a whole.
“We’re trying to promote the little town of Oakland, and it has such a great historical background and is a great destination,” Tollefson said. “We hope to partner with the city to help increase our visitors in town and help the economic viability of the entire city.”