Kahlo Underground owner Maria Estrada said Armory Square became an attractive option for her Division Street restaurant following a loss of revenue caused by COVID-19. (Sam Wilmes/Northfield News)

A popular downtown restaurant is operating in a new location.

Kahlo closed its previous location, 306 Division St. S, June 5, and has since moved into Armory Square.

Owner Maria Estrada said the lease was up June 30, and the feasibility of remaining in the space became untenable due to COVID-19-induced revenue losses. Armory presented an intriguing option for her, and the owners approved her request.

Estrada said she hopes people eventually become more acclimated with the space. She is leaving open the possibility of eventually transitioning into catering or finding another place for her business.

The restaurant is run by the Estrada family, led by Maria Estrada, who also runs Maria’s Taco Hut food truck.

“It’s working fine,” Maria said of the new location. “People are confused on how to come in and order. Today was a lot better than yesterday.”

Maria is a longtime restaurant owner in Northfield. In 2006, the Estrada family, including husband-and-wife Rafael and Maria Estrada, opened Mexican Grill at the current site of El Triunfo. The first day, a line of customers extended out the door and around the building. And throughout the business’s run, lunches remained popular.

At the end of their lease, the restaurant wasn’t making enough money to be viable, so the Estradas, now with two young children, took their exit before running into financial difficulty.

After the restaurant closed, the Estradas continued growing the food truck and catering business. Maria took jobs, providing food service for Arcadia Charter School, Carleton College’s Bon Apetit and St. Dominic School. She also did regular catering for Northfield United Methodist Church and Northfield Rotary Club.

In 2015, still running the food truck and catering business, they started using pop-up restaurants and other creative measures to raise funds for a new kitchen. And in April 2016, they took over the kitchen at the old Castle Rock Pit Stop in Castle Rock Township.

There, the catering business grew and gave the Estradas a foundation to work from.

Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Membership and Event Coordinator Jane Bartho said Estrada told her community support ensured Kahlo would not need to close due to the pandemic.

“They’ve got a great following, and I think it will be a good move,” Bartho said. She noted small businesses play an essential role in the downtown district, are easy to promote and visit.

“It’s a win-win-win, having local owners, successful restaurants, and great places to eat,” she said.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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