BY JUSTIN FRANZ for the Flathead Beacon
LAKESIDE – A few weeks ago, some West Shore residents may have been puzzled when a man who looked an awful lot like legendary Las Vegas showman Wayne Newton pulled up in his black SUV and asked where the garbage dump was located.
It was no impersonator. Newton was making a garbage run for his wife, Kathleen Newton, who recently opened a new gift and home accessories shop in downtown Lakeside called Kat’s Korner. The business is one of several new shops and restaurants that have popped up in the small community this year and Wayne Newton, 72, said it’s no surprise the town is growing.
“Lakeside has been such a well-kept secret for so long,” he said. “It’s exploding.”
This spring the owners of Tamarack Brewing Company opened two new restaurants at the Lakeside Town Center. Seven, named after the number on Flathead County license plates, caters to the dinner crowd and Farmhouse offers local food with a southern twist for breakfast and lunch.
Along the shores of Flathead Lake, the restaurant formally known as The Docks has reopened as ScottiBelli’s Acqua Pazza, following the success of the owners’ Italian restaurants in Kalispell. Helping promote this growth is the newly organized West Shore Visitors Bureau, which played a huge part in organizing the recent Lakeside Community Fair and Summerfest.
The Lakeside Town Center was built in the late 1990s but had fallen on hard times during the recession and was completely vacant in early 2013. That’s when Andra and Josh Townsley purchased the building and refurbished it. Since then, six new businesses have moved in, including the two restaurants and Remedies pharmacy. Kalispell Regional Medical Center has also opened a clinic and gym.
Andra Townsley, who is also one of the owners of Tamarack Brewing Co., said some patrons have asked if she is concerned about competition between the brewery and the new restaurants, but it doesn’t bother her.
“The more great businesses in Lakeside, the more people will want to come to visit,” she said. “It’s been a snowball effect because other people are seeing that things are happening in Lakeside and they think ‘I want to open a business there.’”
She added that Lakeside’s location along the shores of Flathead Lake already draws a lot of people. That’s exactly what attracted Wayne and Kathleen Newton to the area eight years ago.
Wayne began performing as a child in the 1950s and appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. That eventually led him to Las Vegas, where a hotel first booked him to sing while he was still in high school. Since then he has hosted thousands of shows on The Strip and appeared in numerous movies and television shows.
While the Newtons spend most of the year in Las Vegas, the family said they spend as much time as they can in the Flathead and purchased land south of Lakeside in 2010. Wayne said the area reminds him of what Lake Tahoe was 30 years ago and it has offered the family plenty of opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle of their regular lives. What Lakeside did lack, however, was a place to buy home accessories or good house-warming gifts, according to the Newtons.
“If you were just looking to grab a quick hostess gift you had to drive up to Bigfork or Whitefish,” Kathleen said. “We wanted to bring something like that to Lakeside.”
This winter, the Newtons stumbled upon an open storefront along U.S. Highway 93 that they thought would be the perfect place for their busienss. After a few months of preparation, Kat’s Korner opened for business. The shop has a wide variety of items, including jewelry, chandeliers, clothing, furniture and antiques.
One antique is a birdcage that Wayne found at a shop in San Francisco more than a decade ago. He asked the storeowner for the story behind the piece and it turns out a prisoner at Alcatraz Island had built it. Upon hearing the story, Wayne bought it and now it’s for sale in Lakeside.
Much of the store is fashioned with items selected by Kathleen, but Wayne and their daughter Lauren have “Korners,” where you can even buy some Las Vegas merchandise.
“Kathleen wanted the shop to be for everyone,” Wayne said. “So if you’re a young woman looking for a gift for a friend or a couple looking for a hostess gift, something here will fit the bill.”
The Newtons said they are not sure yet if they will keep the store open seasonally or year-round, but noted they are looking forward to getting to know the community even more through this “family project.”
“It’s been a fun project to be a part of,” Wayne said. “Even if I’ve only been making runs to the dump.”