LEWISTON — Karen Pulkkinen said her long-awaited Grand Trunk Cafe will be open sometime this summer.

“We are being very careful, and we want to be very prepared,” she said. “It’s not always a good thing to hype it up too much, because you want a soft opening. I know the restaurant business, and I know it’s important to have a soft opening because word of mouth and the first experience is very important. That’s my concern now — that things should be run very smoothly.”

Pulkkinen said the cafe will be open for this year’s Great Falls Balloon Festival scheduled for Aug. 15-17.

“Eliminate the question mark and make it an exclamation point,” she said.

The building, at 103 Lincoln St., was built in 1874 and served as the landing spot for many of Lewiston-Auburn’s Canadian immigrants. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

It has been a four-year process to get the former rail depot renovated and open to the public.

The city and the Lewiston-Auburn Railroad began paying for renovations in 2010 with a $200,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and $115,800 of the city’s Community Development Block Grant allocation. The railroad has paid about $65,000 to renovate the building.

The railroad opened negotiations with Pulkkinen in 2011 to turn the building into a restaurant, but issues with water leaking into the building slowed the talks.

Renovation work wrapped up in 2011, and Pulkkinen and the railroad signed the lease in October of that year. She agreed to pay $10 per square foot per year for the roughly 2,100-square-foot space. She has been making monthly payments on the $21,000 per year lease since January 2012.

The Grand Trunk Cafe website, www.grandtrunkcafe.com, is live on the Internet. She said she’s making an effort to work with local vendors and is putting together a collection of rail memorabilia to put on display.

“We have photos of the trip down on the Canadian rail,” she said. “It’s really what our entire theme is about, honoring that Canadian ancestry.”

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