Only days after taking it down, officials with the Mermaid Entertainment & Event Center in Mounds View say they plan to restore the landmark 30-foot mermaid statue they removed from the center's roof earlier this week.
The Mermaid center's owners and managers met Thursday to discuss the fate of the statue, now resting in storage courtesy of the sign company that removed it Tuesday. They decided to discuss their options with Mounds View officials to make sure that erecting the statue elsewhere on the property wouldn't violate city ordinances, said Greg Holeman, a manager at the Mermaid.
Removal of the mermaid, a community icon along Hwy. 10 for 54 years, was disappointing news for many Mounds View residents.
A Mermaid center announcement on Facebook that the statue "had to retire from her post" because it was structurally unsafe had been shared more than 2,000 times by Thursday. Employees said the phone was ringing off the hook, and Holeman said he was fielding 15 to 25 calls per day.
"It's blown up," he said.
The decision to restore the statue was made after an online petition to save the mermaid drew at least 1,000 signatures. Jennifer Curtis, 37, started the petition Tuesday after learning through Facebook that the mermaid was coming down.
The statue "is a monument of Mounds View," Curtis said. "Everybody knows the mermaid. You don't have to live in Mounds View to know the mermaid on top of the building."
While the statue isn't considered historic and so isn't legally protected, it's listed on the Minnesota Historical Society's website page of classic roadside advertising along with the statues of a giant walleye at Garrison and Paul Bunyan at Bemidji.
The statue on the roof of the Mermaid was hard to miss — a topless woman with the tail of a fish, standing tall with her arms raised above her head to deflect the net of a hopeful fisherman.
"It's a funny thing how people talk about the statue," former Mermaid owner Charlie Hall told the Star Tribune in 2007. "They say, 'Don't ever take it down because it brings back so many memories.' "
It certainly does for Curtis. Her mother worked at the Mermaid, originally a restaurant and nightclub, for almost 30 years. It's where her parents met.
"There's pictures of me, as a baby, in the nightclub in the basement," she said.
Curtis said the building has undergone a number of renovations over the years, including replacement of the nightclub with an event space. The statue was the only thing left from the Mermaid she remembered as a child, she said.
Holeman said the Mermaid's owners noticed the statue was in poor repair last year while fixing the roof at the AmericInn next door, which they also own. They decided a couple of weeks ago to take the statue down, he said.
Holeman said the owners are giving the Mermaid center "a face-lift," with plans for a fresh coat of paint this spring and remodeling of the AmericInn. "But not changing the name of the Mermaid," he said.
There's no plan B if city safety regulations block restoration of the statue, Holeman said. Curtis said that while it would be more appropriate for the statue to stay at the Mermaid, it could also find a good home in a statuary garden.
"I'm going to continue the petition until I see her in her home or a new home," Curtis said.
Emily Allen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.