Consistency helps The Bears Den become Byron’s sports hub

BYRON – You probably won’t find bears in Byron, but the town is home to – it claims – one of the most photographed bears in all of Minnesota.

This bear is the statue that stands guard outside the popular restaurant, The Bears Den Sports Bar and Eatery.

The Bears Den opened in 2008 under the ownership of Joe Cartney, who wanted to create a sports bar that would be the local hub for prep sports in the community. Cartney retired a few years ago, but his business partner, Issac Raaen, has maintained consistency for The Bears Den as Byron’s sports hub.

“We support all youth sports in Byron,” Raaen said. “We donate to all programs. Like the football team, for example, we provide pizza for all their home games to supply to officials and people working on the event. This is something very important for us. It’s definitely part of our brand.

The Bears Den is not only a hub for Byron’s sporting community, but also for visiting teams and families.

“When Owatonna plays at a school in Rochester and comes through here, we always welcome people here when Stewartville or when Faribault comes to town,” Raaen said. “There are certainly niche cities that have understood through various channels, this is the place to go before and after games. We know Byron is playing against teams from those cities where we are going to be very busy.

A big part of what makes The Bears Den the place to go for visitors and Byron locals alike is the staff. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Raaen was one of the lucky few restaurateurs to keep the majority of its staff employed and with schedules that catered to everyone’s needs.

The end of a Monday lunch rush still draws a busy crowd to Bear’s Den in Byron as 20 customers dine on December 12, 2022.

Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin

Raaen says 80% of current employees at The Bears Den have been with the restaurant since 2017 or earlier. This also translates into loyal customers.

“I would say 80% of my business is actually regular customers. The quality of customer service is our number one priority. Couple that with food consistency and you’ll constantly have people coming back for something like our turkey and cranberry sandwich,” Raaen said. “This is by far one of our most popular items, and if we do as much recurring business as we do, you can tell we’re doing something right.”

With the pandemic less of a concern, Raaen said he sees every night making getting back to normal so satisfying.

“When we all run around knowing we have to survive the next 10 minutes to get through the rest of the night. It’s chaotic, but that’s also what we work for,” Raaen said. “I guess it was the madness coming back, just being so busy that we’re all running around and hustling and working really hard.”

Raane predicts The Bears Den’s crazy diner rush will sustain and sustain the restaurant’s success throughout 2023. He also hopes the guardian bear statue outside the front doors will retain its popularity and officially become the Minnesota’s most photographed bear.

Bears Den sports bar and restaurant

845 High Point Place NE, Byron, MN 55920


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