Anaconda lost a powerhouse of its business community Saturday when Dale Strommen died unexpectedly at age 46.
Strommen and his family reopened Donivan's Restaurant Pub and Casino in 2016 after the 33-year-old Anaconda dining mainstay was gutted by fire.
But Strommen and his family didn’t just repair Donivan's — they embarked on a total overhaul of the Anaconda restaurant, expanding its footprint dramatically, redesigning the interior, and coming up with a re-imagined menu that now draws guests from Anaconda and all around Montana.
The result, community and business leaders say, is something that has brought new life to the Park Avenue corridor.
Strommen’s mother Marilyn started the restaurant with two of her brothers in 1985, and the three named the restaurant after their father Donivan. She and Dale’s father Ed Strommen continue as co-owners of the restaurant today.
Strommen, his wife Amy and their children lived for a short time in Arizona, where Strommen worked for the state. The family later moved to Bozeman, where they lived until 10 years ago when they decided to move back to Anaconda to help Marilyn with the family restaurant.
Amy said Wednesday her husband long had a vision for the family business.
He wanted to take his mother’s restaurant “to the next level” and turn it into a place where local people could gather and where good food and a lively atmosphere could draw visitors from out of town.
During the renovation of Donivan’s at 211 E. Park Ave., the family purchased the building next door to expand. In the end, they had a 116-person dining room and a 48-person bar with an atmosphere that was modern yet still spoke to Anaconda’s blue-collar past, replete with large-scale photography depicting scenes from Anaconda history.
Amy said Strommen’s vision for Donivan’s wasn’t based on another restaurant he saw.
Instead, the reboot was a collaboration between family members, employees, and Strommen’s brother-in-law Steve Hamell, who helped come up with the concept for the new design and whom Strommen previously described as “a master craftsman.”
By all accounts, Strommen was passionate about his community.
The Anaconda High School alumnus wanted to showcase the town’s uniqueness while also contributing to visitation and revitalization. In the end, Amy said, her husband achieved his vision and the goals he set out for Donivan’s.
“He gave it everything he had,” Amy said.
Bill Everett, Anaconda-Deer Lodge chief executive officer, described Strommen as a talkative, friendly person who made people smile.
“From a personal perspective, he was a good guy and a good friend,” said Everett, adding that Strommen was one of the leaders in Anaconda downtown development.
Jim Davison, executive director of the Anaconda Local Development Corp., agreed, stating that he felt Donivan’s and other restaurants in town have put Anaconda on the map when it comes to dining in southwest Montana.
Brenda Dixon — manager of Hickory House Inn, a bed and breakfast on Park Avenue, across the street from Donivan’s — said she was “absolutely devastated” when she got the news of Strommen’s death.
She, Mary Johnston, the executive director of the Anaconda Chamber of Commerce, and Bekah Esquibel, co-owner of Beautiful Life Clothing Boutique, 221 E. Park Ave., all described Strommen as a leading figure in Anaconda’s business community.
“We loved Dale,” said Esquibel. “He brought so much to downtown Anaconda.”
Amy said the next chapter in Donivan’s story is yet to be written. But one thing's for certain: The loss of Strommen has been deeply felt by those who knew the Anaconda businessman.
“A lot of people will miss him,” she said.