by Dave Weiman
In recent years, I have dined at Doolittles Woodfire Grill in Alexandria, Minnesota – a restaurant that uses the excitement of aviation as its theme. I have always wondered if the restaurant chain was owned by the family of World War II icon, Jimmy Doolittle, or at least owned by pilots. Upon investigation, I learned that one pilot and one non-pilot owned the chain, but not the Doolittle family.
Lynn Reimer and Reimer’s sister, Barbara Olson, established Doolittles in 1989, but in 2001, dissolved the partnership.
Reimer is a lifelong resident of Minneapolis and chief financial officer for the company.
He started as a dishwasher when he was 15 years old and has experienced every position in the restaurant business. Reimer is a private pilot, and has a true love for aviation. He owns a 1987 RV4 and a 2014 Aerotrek A220, which he hangars at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minn. He is also a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
John Sheehan, who started as the general and regional manager for the company, is now chief operating officer and co-owner. Sheehan received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management at St. Cloud State University in 1988.
The company opened its first location in Eagan, Minnesota, called “Doolittles Air Café.” The restaurant was a popular neighborhood sports bar, complete with airplane paraphernalia. Based on its success, Doolittles opened several more Air Cafés and rode out the “sports bar” era. But over the years, it became clear a change was in order in the menu to include more quality entrees, such as fresh fish, wood fired meats and rotisserie cooking, and a much-expanded wine list.
In November 2003, Doolittles unveiled the “Woodfire Grill” in Fargo, North Dakota. Like the Air Café, the Woodfire Grill also celebrates the romantic era of nostalgic aviation, but includes many amenities found in more upscale casual markets, including larger booths, leather seating, and ambient lighting – all which makes for a cozy atmosphere. The restaurant is clean, too, from the silverware, to the restrooms and carpets.
It wasn’t long until all Doolittle restaurants were transformed from sports bars to more upscale restaurants.
In addition to its Fargo location, Doolittles has restaurants in Eagan, Golden Valley, and Alexandria, Minnesota; and more recently, Madison, Wisconsin with plans to expand in additional cities throughout the Midwest. But there are no plans to establish restaurants at airports (www.doolittles.com).