LCD Group’s “critical last boost of financial support” made a big difference for ‘The Pines’

As is the case with every business, it started with a vision. Questions and inquiries then quickly followed. Some said the idea was impressive, if unrealistic. Others doubted it could be done. But for Blain Mikkonen it didn’t matter. He had a big idea and was determined to see it come to life.

Now 18 months after opening, the idea he and his business partners conceived has been recognized as one of the best weddings and events venues in the Red River Valley.

It is certainly among the most beautiful.

The Pines is a weddings and event business located ten miles south of Fargo on 17 acres of picturesque and verdant farmland. Open year-round, the venue features a renovated farmhouse, in-ground pool, outdoor gathering areas, and a 9,000 square foot barn-inspired facility for weddings, family gatherings, corporate retreats, banquets, club meetings, seminars, holiday parties, and vendor shows.

Owner Blain Mikkonen’s idea for The Pines was born, in part, out of his other business. Mikkonen is co-owner of Grain Designs
of Fargo, which provides custom furniture design and manufacturing. Specializing in dining tables, office and home décor, Grain Designs has earned a reputation and a loyal following for craftsmanship, design, and creative use of reclaimed wood furniture. The Pines serves as a showcase for Grain Designs. The event venue features exposed beams, reclaimed wood, custom made tables, and sliding doors.
“The idea for The Pines was really born out of necessity,” says Mikkonen. “Grain Designs had rented a shop on the same property for over three years and we fell in love with the location. When the property was put up for sale, we had to decide what to do and we faced two difficult choices. We could move to a shop closer to Fargo, which we couldn’t afford, or take on a mortgage we couldn’t yet afford.”

Mikkonen and his business partners chose the latter and started exploring new opportunities.

“We were looking at how we could generate additional revenue from the property. The answer for us was to turn it into a wedding and events venue,” adds Mikkonen.

Mikkonen and his team worked with Cornerstone Bank to secure financing for purchasing the property.
“Cornerstone Bank was tremendous to work with. They took a chance on us and believed in our vision.”
But Cornerstone Bank’s financing could only go so far. And that’s where Lewis & Clark Development Group came in with, what Mikkonen calls, a “critical last boost of financial support” through the North Dakota Opportunity Fund.  

The North Dakota Opportunity Fund leverages private financing to help small businesses and manufacturers attain loans and investments needed to expand and create jobs. A consortium of 38 North Dakota municipalities is eligible for participation in the program. Fortunately for Mikkonen, Fargo and West Fargo are among those municipalities.
LCD Group Commercial Lending Director Matt Burthold says the program isdesigned to be relatively flexible in meeting a number of small business financing needs: Funding construction, purchasing real estate and equipment, securing working capital, and for interim SBA 504 loans.
In the case of The Pines, the North Dakota Opportunity Fund supported Cornerstone Bank’s financing of the project. The Fund provided additional loan dollars in a subordinated lien position that met the bank’s criteria to complete its financing.

“Lewis and Clark Development Group was a major player in helping to make our ambitious growth plan as a young business a reality,” says Mikkonen.

“Thanks to Cornerstone Bank and the Lewis and Clark Development Group, we have a venue that enables us to welcome others to a gorgeous rural setting while showcasing our Grain Designs brand. We’ve created a one-of-a-kind events business that has added value to Grain Designs. The Pines has increased business for Grain Designs and we see more expansion on the horizon,” Mikkonen notes.

“We’re so very grateful that such great programs and partners exist in North Dakota and to support small businesses such as ours.”

More information about the North Dakota Opportunity Fund may be found here or by contacting Matt Burthold at (701) 667-7601 or at

Photos: Courtesy of The Pines