The intense heat of the Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge fire in 2006 kept firefighters well back. The landmark burned to the ground, but was rebuilt and opened once again in 2008. - file photo

Callahan's continues battle after coming back from the ashes

No one would have blamed Ron and Donna Bergquist if they had walked away from the ruins of Callahan's Lodge in fall 2006.

Famed for its warm fireplaces and pasta dinners on cold wintry evenings, for hosting proms, engagements and weddings and providing an oasis for Pacific Crest Trail hikers, Callahan's was reduced to rubble on Sept. 6 that year.

Lesser people would've walked and let the ashes fall where they may.

The Bergquists, however, spurred on by a river of nostalgic sentiment from customers, elected to rebuild the restaurant and lodge at the base of Mount Ashland that was first constructed in the 1940s.

Since then, the resilience, persistence and determination it takes to keep a dining establishment going against the odds has been put to the test.

"It was a responsibility not to walk away from it and my husband loves to build," said Donna Bergquist. "We're both high-energy people and we enjoy a challenge."

A simple comeback would've been enough. No sooner, however, were the doors reopened in August 2008 than the economy did a free fall into the Great Recession.

"Going on our projections from 2005-2006, we saw no problem seeing our way forward — even with a brand new mortgage," Bergquist said. "What happened wasn't something we could've projected. The way we've managed is to apply ourselves like we never thought we would. We did it with all the energy, resources, creativity and passion we could give it."

Ron Bergquist built more than 30 Shari's Restaurants early in his career before returning to the Rogue Valley, where he built the Rogue Regency Inn.

"When you run a sole proprietorship, you can never take for granted that you're going to be here tomorrow," Donna Bergquist said.

"Chains have a resiliency built on the fact there are so many; some may do poorly while others do very well; the mix allows the survival of the whole."

In the Internet era, customers hold the keys because of social media restaurant reviews.

"If we don't make it work every day, our chances of survival will be fairly remote," she said. "One reason a business like ours survives is that we have 30 employees going from early morning to late at night seven days a week."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at Edge.

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