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Dermot Rowland

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Obituary: Builder Dermot Rowland had appetite for restaurants business

  • Article by: PATRICK KENNEDY
  • Star Tribune
  • August 24, 2012 - 12:03 AM

Contractor, businessman and investor Dermot Rowland built restaurants and restaurant companies, but his real passion was building relationships with businessmen, friends and family members. "He was a friend to everybody. He was very generous and very loyal," said his wife of 52 years, Helen.

Rowland died Aug. 14 at his Bloomington home. He was 76.

He was born in Minneapolis, went to Washburn High School and the University of Minnesota, and served in the Marines.

In 1966, he founded Diversified Construction. The company started in residential and commercial construction, but a contract to build Godfather's Pizza restaurants led Rowland and his company in a new direction. He went on to become an early investor in Old Country Buffet and built the first Old Country Buffet restaurant in Richfield.

According to son David Rowland, Diversified went on to build scores of early Old Country Buffet restaurants around the country. Eventually he created his own buffet restaurant concept, founding HomeStyle Family Buffet in 1986.

To concentrate on his growing restaurant business, he sold Diversified Construction in 1986 to nephews James and Steven Rowland.

HomeStyle grew and enjoyed success as a public company, but Rowland eventually left that business. "His preference was in starting and building businesses and not running them," David Rowland said.

He started another restaurant company in 1989, and in 1990 he opened a buffet restaurant called Q Cumbers. He formed a partnership with Doron Jensen, who had a restaurant called Minnesota Steakhouse. Those two companies merged into Q-Steaks Inc. It built a second Q Cumbers restaurant, but eventually settled on the steakhouse theme. In order to take the concept national, the name of the restaurants and company was changed to Timber Lodge Steakhouse. It eventually grew to have as many as 17 locations.

In 1995, the sole Q Cumbers restaurant was sold to Rowland's daughter, Sheila Rowland McCabe, and her husband, Mickey. Those two have since made it a successful fixture in Edina.

Dermot Rowland was a frequent visitor to Sheila and Mickey's restaurant, where he enjoyed talking with dishwashers, wait staff and customers. Sheila said her father was drawn to the dynamics and energy of the restaurant industry but mainly, "it was the kind of people who worked in the restaurant industry from the top all the way down to the bottom that he enjoyed."

According to David Rowland, after the sale of the Timber Lodge company in 1998, his father turned his attention to investing, particularly angel investing. There he used his experience, contacts and passion for creating companies to invest in a number of new restaurant and nonrestaurant businesses, including Granite City Food & Brewery.

In addition to his wife, daughter Sheila and son David, Rowland is survived by another son, Mark Rowland; another daughter, Kate Rowland Moore; four sisters, Sister Joyce Rowland, Mary McKinley, Olive Hedrick and Sheila Delaney; a brother, Steve Rowland, and 11 grandchildren.

Services have been held.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926

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