Making the Right Choices

Robbie Omdahl was very active in sports while attending high school in Thief River Falls. He joined the diving team in his junior year and became captain of the team in his senior year. He had quite a bit of success as a diver and was offered a four-year scholarship to South Dakota State University, but while still a senior in high school, he met a girl and ended up getting her pregnant.

When his daughter came into the world in 2002, he had a life-changing choice in front of him—to take the scholarship and go to university or take a job in Thief River Falls and stay in his daughter’s life.

Robbie chose his daughter.

He took a job at Arctic Cat in 2001. Thanks to a strong work ethic, he quickly moved up in the company. He eventually worked his way into engineering where he was responsible for field testing snowmobiles and ATV’s.

“I got to travel the world,” Robbie said. One of his travels took him to West Yellowstone, where he met a beautiful girl. 

Kayla was bartending at a small local bar and remembers that evening well. “Late one night he came walking in and ordered a drink,” she said.

“I thought that was the last time I was ever going to see him, but then he came back in by himself, and we sat down and talked.” The couple had a strong chemistry and quickly hit it off. “The rest is history,” Kayla laughed.

Robbie and Kayla settled down together in Thief River Falls. Robbie was still working for Arctic Cat but started moonlighting at the Rusty Nail.

Geno Kalinoski, the bar’s owner, offered Robbie the manager position in 2018, and before long, he left his position at Arctic Cat and started managing the Rusty Nail full time.

The couple had a son that same year and ended up getting married in 2019.

Things were going well for the young couple. “Then COVID hit,” Robbie said. “COVID was a hard time, especially for a bar.”

The Rusty Nail started serving food to go. “This community was so amazing,” Robbie said. “They really supported us. Before COVID, a lot of people didn’t even know that we served food at the Rusty Nail.”

Since people weren’t coming into the bar during COVID, it was the perfect time to remodel the building. It took quite a bit of time to finish the renovation project, but it was well worth the effort.

A couple years ago, Geno started talking to Robbie about buying the business. Robbie’s experience as manager coupled with his strong work ethic, seemed to make him an ideal candidate. Robbie and Kayla were able to finance the purchase with a combination of bank and owner financing. “Hard work pays off,” Robbie said. “I can’t thank the guy (Geno) enough for giving us an opportunity like that.”

Robbie and Kayla are continuing to grow their sales through expanded food offerings and their focus on making “The Nail” a more family-friendly environment.

“The amount of hockey teams that come in throughout the wintertime is amazing,” Robbie said. “We actually had a hockey team from over by Duluth ask us if they could write a letter to the newspaper. They said, ‘that was the best service we have ever had as a hockey team.’”

“It’s a good feeling, Robbie said. “It makes you want to work harder.”


Visit Rusty Nail’s Facebook page for more information. 

Starting your own business? Advance Thief River offers business coaching and business navigation services. Read more here.

Join the TREK Facebook group.

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