The Ram is site of famous robbery, current hotspot

Amber Mason

Amber Mason

College students looking for a place to eat with a lot of history behind it don’t have to look far. The Ram and O’Hare’s, located in downtown Brookings, is just such a place.

“It was originally a bank; First National Bank,” said Tammy Young who, along with her husband Terry, has owned The Ram and O’Hare’s since April of 2005.

This bank was the site of a famous robbery by Ben and Stella Mae Dickson in the 1930s, after it had changed its name to Northwestern National Bank, said Tom Yseth, a previous owner of the Ram.

“They were public enemy number one, but not for long,” Yseth said. “I think they got around $15,000, which was a lot of money at the time. They were, of course, caught. Ben was killed. Stella lived, (but) she went to prison.”

This interesting history was something that Yseth embraced during his time running The Ram.

“We used to have robbery days and we would do a re-enactment,” Yseth said.

The building remained a bank until 1972, when the bank became Wells Fargo and moved to its current Brookings location, vacating the Ram building, said Yseth. It wasn’t until 1978 that Yseth purchased the building. By then, it had already been converted into a restaurant by a franchise company that had built Rams at many other locations as well.

“We had a lot of fun in 27 years,” Yseth said of his time at the Ram.

O’Hare’s, a bar located in the basement of the building, also has a long history.

“It used to be called the Sioux River Yacht Club. ? Kind of their gentleman’s club kind of a bar,” Young said. “Then they decided they wanted to tie in SDSU more with it and they had a contest to come up with a name, and that’s when they came up with O’Hare’s.”

The Ram and O’Hare’s also have a long history of hiring SDSU students.

“Probably 99 percent are SDSU students,” said Young.

Brady Mallory, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism, works there as a shift manager and bartender. “As someone who didn’t really know much about South Dakota before coming here for college, it’s nice to be a part of something that’s so steeped in history.” he said.

Mallory, whose previous jobs include working at Kmart and coaching t-ball, said he has enjoyed his first experience working at a restaurant. “Just the atmosphere is really nice,” he said. “I think the owners really treat the employees with respect.”

Even students who aren’t aware of the history of the Ram still enjoy going there. Sophomore microbiology major Matt Luebbert was there once a few months ago. Although not aware of The Ram’s history as a bank he said, “It was a good place; I liked it. The staff was friendly.”

“We’re looking forward to making a few changes; we’re going to do some redecorating,” Young said. “The can collection’s probably going to go, and go toward a more sophisticated, trendy kind of a look, try to bring in the college kids and make them feel comfortable, but still keep it reasonably priced.”

One thing that won’t be leaving is the main relic that’s left over from the Ram’s time as a bank: the safe, which is still on display in the main dining room.

“I don’t think they could get that out. You probably could but you’d have to knock out a wall or something,” said Young.