NISSWA - On a spring weekend just before summer officially started, people sat beneath red umbrella-topped outdoor tables eating lunch on a busy Nisswa Main Street.
And that is just what Steve and Cherie Mans hoped would happen when they saw the for sale sign at the restaurant on Nisswa's Main Street, just a stone's throw from Highway 371. The restaurant has seen names and owners come and go in recent years. This time, the recognizable name of Mickey's is building on a tradition that began in Brainerd.
Soups, salads, hot and cold sub sandwiches, a baked taco shell salad and take-and-bake pizzas are Mickey's signatures. Items are made to order.
The Mickey's restaurant in Nisswa is the first true franchise restaurant for Toni and Jim Czeczok of Mickey's in Brainerd. Interestingly, the exterior shape of the two buildings is strikingly similar.
Mickey's restaurant on South Fifth Street in Brainerd once served as a Sandy's restaurant and later as a Hardee's before Mickey's moved in in 1989 after spending seven years on Washington.
Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
The two couples are longtime friends and talked about the opportunity of a Mickey's restaurant in Nisswa for about two years. They had their eyes on the corner spot as the highway opens onto Nisswa's Main Street. When a for sale sign popped up, they put the wheels in motion for the purchase.
To help prepare, the Mans worked shifts at Mickey's in Brainerd. And shift leaders at Mickey's in Brainerd spent time in Nisswa to help with the day and night shifts.
"It worked very well and we're still friends," Jim Czeczok said.
Mickey's opened a second store in Fergus Falls in the past and sold it to an employee, but the Czeczoks said the Mickey's in Nisswa is their first true franchise. They share the signature menu items and special recipes and the Czeczoks have served as guides. As friends, the Czeczoks said they knew the relationship would be better served if the Mans were owners and not employees. Steve and Cherie Mans met at Jim and Toni Czeczok's wedding.
Laurie Hradsky (left) and Kathy Johnson have worked at Mickey's restaurant in Brainerd for more than 20 years and work with owners Jim and Toni Czeczok.
Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
"They have been huge," Steve Mans said of the Czeczoks' support and expertise. "They drive hundreds of miles back and forth to help us out. It's really quite a story."
Steve Mans said Mickey's stresses fresh food and its staple offerings of salads, soups, sub sandwiches and pizza seemed a natural fit for Nisswa. The menu between the two Mickey's restaurants is identical. Popular menu items in Nisswa have been staples like subs, either the cold ham and turkey or hot subs such as steak and Yankee pot roast sub and garlic roasted chicken, along with taco salads. The restaurant seats 24 inside and 30 on the outdoor patio.
Working since January, they basically gutted the interior. They kept the shell and sanded the vintage 1930 wood floor. They opened for business on April 1 and credited the support of area residents and other Nisswa business owners since the opening.
"Everybody has been fantastic in supporting us," Steve Mans said.
Moving into the restaurant business was a big career change for Steve Mans. He used to sell snowmobiles for Brothers Motorsports in Baxter for 15 years.
"It's not just standing at the counter and making a sandwich," he said of the effort that goes into the new business. Cherie Mans was working down the street at her business, SpecialTees in Nisswa. She worked at the Brainerd Medical Center for 23 years and had owned SpecialTees for two years before turning the operations over to Steve Mans' mother, who has the nearby children's shop called Honey Huggers.
"It just happened at the right time for us," Cherie Mans said of the move to the restaurant business.
"This is an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Steve Mans said. "We're enjoying every minute of it."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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