- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

ST. ANTHONY, N.D. (AP) - Rusty Hoffman, a nice old gent with a teasing manner, leans up against a bar stool at Rusty’s Saloon & Grill like he owns the joint.

For 28 years he did, but the saloon and grill that lights up the night in the village of St. Anthony south of Mandan is unrecognizable from the humble watering hole he operated there for 28 years, and his dad ran it for almost three decades before him.

The transformation from an old, added-onto-house-turned-bar is remarkable. It makes Hoffman, 76, proud to see the local tavern turned into a classy food and drink destination with handcrafted furnishings, plank flooring and a hand-carved mahogany and mirrored bar that’s a period piece from the early 1900s.

“It’s pretty neat. I just wish my dad could see it,” Hoffman told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1PuPqvU ).

The bulk of his pride is as much for the building with his name on it as for its new owner, Al Leingang. He remembers Leingang growing up country poor but with a work ethic that transformed that boy’s life much in the same way he went on to transform the old building.

As Hoffman reminisces, Leingang is in the building, as he is most days until the business is up and running without a hitch.

Now 58, Leingang has been surviving on his wits and worth for most of his life. Locally, he’s known as one of the most successful homegrown businessmen Mandan has ever known, creating businesses including Leingang Siding and Windows, Thermal Line Windows and Home Works Supply Inc., that employed hundreds of men and women. It all started when he was 19 years old, hanging metal siding.

He believed there was room for an honest man to transform that business and, with a $10,000 loan backed by an elderly woman who’d been like a second mother, he bought a semi load of metal siding. He never looked back, instead seeing all the possibilities that can happen in a life lived by a few simple rules, like turning the other cheek and telling the truth, even when it hurts.

“If you believe nobody’s above you or below you and if you put yourself out there and do your best, people will want to help take you up through the ranks,” he said.

“Everybody’s got gifts. I got good at gathering eagles instead of flocking turkeys,” he said, referring to all the people he saw as co-workers, not employees, over the years.

He’s since sold off the businesses he started and, with purpose and resources, set about honoring St. Anthony, a place where his character was formed. A childless couple and distant relatives, Johnny and Katie Leingang took him onto their small farm place west of St. Anthony as someone to help them and to love in return.

“Why not do this? I’ve been fortunate in my life,” said Leingang, who takes pride in all the details, the craftsmanship in the chairs made from wine barrels, the tabletops of wood pulled from an old bowling alley in Tuttle, the antique-looking, reproduction wallpaper made in France and tin ceilings that highlight that old-timey saloon feeling.

He’s not done, either. He’s planning a pavilion outside, where he’s made room for campers and horse riders that want to plug in, tie up and stay the night. There’s steak, burgers and barbequed meats, smoked on site with local fruit wood, and catering for as many as 100 people in the historic St. Anthony Verein Hall across the street.

He walks outside to plug in the Christmas tree, a small task he keeps for himself just at dark this December. Otherwise, true to form, “I’m gathering good people and they get to run it and make sure the public is satisfied,” he says.

Rusty’s Saloon and Grill is not the biggest business he’s built, but it might be the one closest to his heart.

“It’s what we’re here for - to have fun. We’re only here for so long,” he says.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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