Kona Grill co-founder plans North Dakota expansion, political career

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While waiting two hours for a table at the Williston, N.D. Applebee's, the co-founder of the Kona Grill chain decided he'd found the right place to expand.

Forum Communications reports that Marcus Jundt, 48, a Minneapolis native, plans to make Williston the headquarters for a new national restaurant chain. Jundt and his business partners have already invested $15 million in the booming region, opening the Williston Brewing Company, a restaurant and bar. Their Williston Holding Co. employs nearly 300 people and owns other Williston restaurants, including Doc Holliday’s Roadhouse, which may expand to other cities. The company is looking at locations between Bismarck, Minot and Sidney, Mont., for future restaurants.

Jundt told the newspaper that, as part of his commitment to the area, he bought a house in Williston last year. Now he has decided that he wants to be the growing city’s mayor and plans to begin campaigning in January.

“If you truly, truly want to participate in this boom, you have to live here,” Jundt said. “You have to be where the action is.”

Last month, in a profile of Jundt on CNBC, the entrepreneur, who was an early investor in Caribou Coffee, said the surge in the Bakken oilfield could be the biggest he's ever seen. A profile in last July's Minnesota Business said that Jundt's grandparents are from western North Dakota, so he was familiar with the area. He visited as the oil boom was revving up, and said he saw the growth as "the opportunity of a lifetime,"so convinced of the potential that he didn't pause to write a business plan.

“Williston is the only place in the world that I know of where a person can be homeless and earn six figures,” Jundt said.

Jundt comes from a prominent Minnesota family with a history of donating to civic, charitable and arts causes, including endowing the Jundt Terrace at the Guthrie Theater.

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