Edgar Oliveira, the owner of Harvest Brazilian Grill and Station West Bar and Grill in downtown Mandan, never planned to be a restaurateur.
“My entry into the restaurant business is completely accidental,” said Oliveira, who also owns the James River Cafe at Bismarck’s Heritage Center with his wife, Isabel. “I like to eat a lot.”
Now the business owner, who opened Harvest Brazilian Grill in 2011 and Station West in 2013, has a vision to develop downtown Mandan into a destination hotspot, making Mandan’s Main Street synonymous with “Eat Street.”
“I opened a restaurant here three years ago, and I was the only person on the block,” Oliveira said. “But for things to really thrive and be more sustainable, I think you have to have a bigger community of restaurants around it.”
A Brazilian native, Oliveira spent the first part of his career as a drummer in Minneapolis and at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. He was working as a computer programmer in Santa Barbara, Calif., when his mother opened an Americana restaurant in Linton in 2009.
“I helped her make the logo and the menu and the website,” Oliveira said. “She asked me to visit and help out, and I really liked it. It was instantaneous.”
Oliveira never returned to California. He added Brazilian barbecue to the restaurant’s menu, which became popular enough that customers from Bismarck drove to Linton to sample the restaurant’s fare. After struggling to maintain a customer base in Linton, Oliveira began scouting locations near Bismarck in 2011.
He ultimately chose to move the business to Mandan, where he said there was more affordable real estate than Bismarck at the time. Harvest Brazilian Grill opened in October 2011 on Mandan’s Main Street in a storefront that was originally a J.C. Penney. Pennies are still embedded into the floor of the entryway, and Oliveira restored the original high ceilings and hardwood floors, hanging Edison bulbs and works by local artists in the dining area.
Sue Hoffman, owner of Susie Q’s Craft Emporium on Main Street, opened her business in the former beanery shortly before Harvest Brazilian took up residence.
“We all kind of work together and send business to each other,” said Hoffman, who is working with Mandan’s Heritage Plaza Foundation to create an outdoor-seating area and history display near her store.
One of Main Street’s newest residents is Brea, a women’s clothing boutique and yoga studio, which is housed next to Harvest Brazilian in a storefront that was originally Eckroth Music.
“When we were looking at buildings and spaces on Main Street, having the one right next to (Harvest) was more appealing than others just because Edgar is so proactive about putting events together and getting involved in the community,” said Eve Kostelecky, Brea owner. “Being on Main Street … was a fantastic move for us.”
Harvest Brazilian provides space for “Beer and Hymns,” a monthly Lutheran worship service, and hosts Latin dance lessons on the first Friday of each month. Oliveira serves on the board of the Mandan Progress Organization, which organizes community festivals and parades.
“As a business owner, you definitely want people to come to your downtown area as a destination, and you want interesting things to open that don’t exist anywhere else,” Oliveira said. “We have a downtown model just across the river (in Bismarck), which five years ago or so was not really happening. Now Mandan … is just that little seed of a real downtown.”