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For the new owners of popular Willmar restaurant, plan remains simple: Good food, friendly service

WILLMAR -- Margaret Latcham of Willmar and her brother, Francis Whetston of Lake Lillian, say they enjoy eating at McMillan's Restaurant in Willmar. Latcham says the wait staff is friendly "and Ron is really nice.''

Latcham was referring to Ron Guetter, who won't be leaving McMillan's anytime soon. He and his wife, Mary, both longtime McMillan's employees, recently bought the South First Street restaurant where they plan to continue providing good food and friendly service.

The Guetters have been working at McMillan's since the restaurant opened 30 years ago. They met while attending the chef train program at Willmar Vocational Technical Institute in 1978 and 1979. They started working at McMillan's in 1980 and were married the same year.

Ron started on the line as a cook and was promoted to management in April when he was finishing the second year of the management program. Mary started as baker and grill cook.

The Guetters bought the restaurant from Joe Cody, Randy Kragh and Bev Engleson in February and closed it temporarily for remodeling.

Ron says they wanted to keep the ownership local and continue their relationship with longtime customers and employees.

"The employees we've had that we worked with for so many years ... were a major part of our decision to do this,'' says Mary. "They didn't know anything about it. We surprised them at a meeting. They were very happy. They applauded. They were happy because they know us. It was somebody they knew and knew what we were like.''

Tammy Garberich, a McMillan's waitress for 29 years, is among the approximately 40 full-time and part-time employees who are enthusiastic for the Guetters.

"One of the reasons I've stayed here is they are very family-oriented,'' Garberich said. "If you've got something with your family going on, they allow us to have that time off, that flexibility. And it's still that way to this day. They realize that family comes first. In order to be a good employee, you have to be a good family person. They care, they really do.''

Garberich has worked in food service since she was 15. She tried an office job, but said she needs to be up and with people.

Ron said McMillan's serves a quality product and gives good service.

"That's what your customers are looking for,'' he says. "They want to make sure it's a good value for them, and I think we've offered that over the years.''

Everything on the menu is pretty much from scratch, according to the couple.

"We're making it from our recipes,'' Ron said. "That way the product is made the same every time, no matter if you have different cooks making it. They follow the recipe and it turns out the same.''

McMillan's offers 15 to 20 different kinds of pies. The most popular is sour cream raisin. Mary says everyone has their favorite.

The restaurant opens at 5:30 a.m. daily. Closing time was extended one hour by the Guetters to 11 p.m.

Sunday is the busiest day, peaking for the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch.

Mary works evenings and weekends and continues the day care service she's offered for the past 17½ years.

"I have such good families, it's hard to quit,'' she says. "They have been very supportive, also. I enjoy both jobs. So far, it's been working out just fine.''

Mary says McMillan's is in the process of printing a new menu and adding some new items. She said their new sweet whisky menu is very popular.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150