On the south side of Brainerd, a restaurant is looking for a little small-town atmosphere in a growing city.
And the new owners of Lou's Dairy Way are applying a little family work ethic to create the vision. Sisters, Missy Nash and Kathy Barnhardt purchased the South Sixth Street restaurant on March 3. They shared a confidence about the restaurant's potential.
"We new it would go," Nash said.
Customers came in the restaurant in shifts one day last week, leaving little down time for workers. When the sisters purchased the restaurant they wanted to modernize without changing too much character. Homemade dining and baked goods will be emphasized.
Missy Nash waited on customers at Lou's Dairy Way last week. Nash and her sister, Kathy Barnhardt, purchased the long-time Brainerd business in March. (Dispatch Photos by Renee Richardson)
Another change has been opening at 5:30 a.m. for the early breakfast crowd and offering specialty omelets. Green lace curtains accent the windows in the restaurants dining area. Customers order lunch at the counter. Customers can expect to be waited on at the tables for breakfast and dinner.
"They come in and we visit and everybody is getting to know each other," Barnhardt said of customers.
The considerable effort to run a restaurant is eased by family members. Mom, Carolyn Strong, helps bake and cook. Dad, Jack Strong, takes care of supplies, dishware and errands. Children and the sisters' husbands are in the mix, cooking on weekends and evenings. The Dairy Way's cook stayed with the new owners.
"A lot of family," Barnhardt said. "It's a lot of effort to make that work. A lot of communicating."
Kathy Barnhardt (left), her mother, Carolyn Strong, and sister, Missy Nash, share the work load in the kitchen, dividing baking and cooking duties and counter service.
She noted while the family is serious about the work, they also have fun doing it. Neither Barnhardt nor Nash had extensive restaurant experience, beyond working years ago at the Cheese House. Nash operated a day care for years and Barnhardt raised four children. But cooking and baking were household skills.
Now almost a month into their new business venture, the Nash and Barnhardt said they have been pleasantly surprised by the response.
"The response was more than we expected," Barnhardt said. "We expected it to be good, but it's been tremendous. ...
"It felt right and it still feels right. It's a lot of hard work, but it's fun."
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