Plenty of changes coming to Goss Opera House

Nothing new on the Goss Building since its purchase by the non-profit group Friends of Goss on the last day of 2018?

Just wait.

Since then, the building’s new owners have been creating partnerships, developing business plans and preparing a capital campaign that will put the Goss on a solid financial footing and, hopefully, solidify its standings as the focal point of downtown Watertown.

Friends of Goss (FoG) recently began advertising for an executive director and is seeking requests for proposals from restaurants interested in setting up shop in the historical building.

Kristen Henderson, marketing committee chair, said FoG is pleased to have received at least 20 applications for the executive director’s position. Others may still apply, although Henderson said interviews will start sometime in early March.

“Hopefully we’ll have somebody in that position by April,” she said. “They will work to help us with the logistics of the capital campaign. And then as we move toward opening up the theater we’d like them to essentially run the business and fundraising operations for Friends of Goss.”

An important step for FoG is developing its statement of support that it will present to potential donors as part of its quiet fund-raising plan. The funds generated will assist FoG in paying for repairs to the building, which includes the Goss Opera House and the former bank building to the east.

“We’ll be testing the water and testing the market as to whether our goals are achievable and who we want to be reaching out to,” said Henderson, who is owner and general manager of Midwest Ag Supply in Watertown. “As we get through that then we’ll go more to the public, speaking to everyone and anyone.”

Assisting FoG is one of the best fundraisers in the country, Brian Bonde of Sioux Falls. Bonde specializes in not-for-profit fundraising and is an advanced certified fundraising executive, one of only 106 professionals worldwide to receive that designation from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

As for marketing, FoG has signed up with Caliber Creative of Sioux Falls, which also has worked with other Watertown businesses, including Prairie Lakes Healthcare System and Bramble Park Zoo.

Henderson said a reason Caliber Creative was chosen was that several of its staff members are northeast South Dakota natives who already had some type of experience with the Goss.

Caliber is currently building the Goss’s new website, and Henderson expects it to be ready around the middle of March.

“We’re going to have a pretty hefty website, which supports Friends of Goss with updates on the restoration project, fundraising and how that’s going, and timing, but still engages with the community so if anybody has any questions as to what’s going on with the Goss, they can long onto to our website.”

FoG has also been active within the community, speaking to focus groups on what expectations they have for the Goss. FoG members have even interviewed people new to the city who may not have any preconceptions about the building.

“It’s been open discussion and brainstorm sessions as to how the community wants to utilize the space,” Henderson said. “Of course, the restaurant feedback is what we’ve been given, but we’ve been hearing a lot of unique, boutique-type ideas for the retail area.”

In its request for proposals, FoG stipulated that the new Goss restaurant must offer consistent, high-quality food, unique flavors and a nice atmosphere. Another stipulation is that any applicants must be managed by someone with proven experience in the restaurant business.