A new event center in downtown Anoka celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting June 3.
Developed in 2019 by Anoka High School alumni Darrin and Emily Larson, The Mill Site event center is at 111 Harrison St. in the 114-year-old building that housed the former Pease family printing operation. The Pease family published the Anoka Union for many years.
Restoring the building, which dates to 1907, took care and effort. The Larsons had to demolish an exterior wall and two interior walls, but they saved and cleaned as much of the original brick as they could. After they rebuilt the outer wall to be structurally sound, they relaid the original brick.
On the inside the Larsons maintained a vintage look.
“We tried to keep it simple and really marry the old with the new,” Emily Larson said. “So one thing that we kept from the original 1907 build of the printery was the originally Pease printery vault or safe door. And so we have that framed or mounted in a visible spot so that we can highlight some of the history. It’s such a beautifully ornate door.”
The event center, which can comfortably seat around 150 people, actually had its first dinner in November 2019 and was booking up for 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and slowed business down. The first wedding in the space didn’t happen until July 2020, and many clients postponed their events or scaled them down significantly.
But with pandemic-related restrictions lifted, the venue is booking at full capacity and decided to host a ribbon cutting and reception to welcome and thank the community.
The reaction from the public has been positive, according to Emily Larson. Some people tell her they’ve lived in Anoka their whole life and never knew the building was there or that they’ve driven by it many times but didn’t know what it was. Others share memories of the businesses that used to operate in the space.
“We always knew this was a special place,” Emily Larson said. “It’s been really fun to share it with the community, to share it with friends and family and to watch it transform to something a little bit different as each family puts their own touch on how to use it or how to decorate it.”
Learn more about the center at themillsiteanoka.com.