Willmar country club restaurant gets new name and new owners
WILLMAR -- The restaurant at the Eagle Creek Golf Course and country club has a new owner, and in October will be getting a new name.
Dave and Mary Baker, who currently own Melvin's on Green Lake in Spicer, purchased the business Sept. 4 from Mike and Dar Dols.
For years the restaurant has been known as Blue Heron on the Green. This summer the Dols changed the name to The Coyote Moon Grille.
Baker intends to make a few changes, including creating a new logo to go with their new name -- The Oaks on Eagle Creek.
A "big splash" celebrating the changes and new name will be held later this fall.
Baker said he'd heard the buzz this summer that the restaurant was for sale. "I didn't think a whole about it," he said.
After his employees at Melvin's encouraged him to consider purchasing another restaurant, Baker approached the Dols and negotiated a price.
The building will continue to be owned by the country club.
Baker purchased the business, the equipment and furnishings and is leasing the space from the country club. He has completed all the necessary paperwork for a liquor license and department of health permits.
The transition in ownership has gone well, said Baker.
He said he's retained most of the existing staff, which he said has been "very helpful," and he's added some new personalities to the mix.
The new general manager, Jenna Chapin, has worked with the Bakers for several years at Melvin's.
Because Melvin's is only open three days a week in the off-season, Baker said owning two restaurants will allow him to offer year-round work to his Melvin's staff, who can also work at The Oaks.
Knowing he had a seasoned staff at Melvin's that would be a "quality, back-of-the-house team" that could work at the Willmar restaurant gave him the extra confidence he needed to make the purchase.
Located on a golf course between Swan and Willmar Lakes, Baker said the business has "one of the most beautiful settings of any restaurant in the area."
Baker plans to make a few changes before the grand re-opening under the new name including creating a new menu, expanding hours, adding flat screen TVs, improving the lighting and audio-visual system in the conference room and offering late night happy hour specials.
Borrowing from successes at Melvin's, Baker said he will bring live entertainment to The Oaks, including musicians and comedians that have been popular at his Spicer restaurant. The first show will be in November.
The new menu will focus on variety and quality food. "We're going to offer a lot more fresh items and better cuts of meat," he said. The wine list will also be expanded.
The weekday noon buffet and the Sunday brunch will continue to be offered.
He said he's ready to "promote the business a little more aggressively," and hopes enhancements to the conference center, which has seating for 350, will make it a more attractive location for large group events. "We're already taking calls for holiday parties," he said.
Next spring he hopes to put on a deck overlooking the 18th green and plans to re-open "The 19th Hole," a small bar and snack area on the ground floor of the country club.
Taking on another business will be challenging, but Baker said he'll rely on his "good staff" to take care of the day-to-day activities and that he and his wife will focus on "big picture" issues like service enhancements, developing menus and their customers.
"It's really important that Mary and I stay close to our customers," he said. "We don't want to lose that personal touch."
Baker moved to Willmar 15 years ago and was general manager at the Holiday Inn. He purchased the Northern Inn in Spicer in 1999 and later purchased the Colonial Inn in Willmar, which was later sold and razed to make way for the Concorde Bank. The Bakers purchased the Willmar Super 8 and Melvin's in 2003.
He said he is "always kicking a few tires" to find out what new business venture is available.
The Bakers have three children, including two in college and a senior at Willmar Senior High School.