Big Chief now serving beer, wine with mealsPublished 11:04am Monday, June 3, 2013
Taking a break from the midafternoon crowd, Big Chief restaurant manager Sherry Bunnis dropped into a chair next to a bright window.
“It really looks fantastic in here, doesn’t it?” she said of the fresh natural tone paint and new Americana decorations on the wall.
It’s part of a recent remodel at Big Chief, and the store’s management said it will give some new character to the restaurant and convenience store. Local businessman Ray Rogers has owned the truck stop for 17 years.
“We’re really re-imaging,” said McKenzie Wachlarowicz, Big Chief’s company controller. “We looked around and said this place hadn’t been updated in such a long time, one thing just lead to another and came together.”
In addition to the fresh look, servers will wear new uniforms. In the convenience store, a new F’Real ice cream machine serves customers a variety of different flavors of milkshakes and mixes.
F’Real machines have become a big hit at stations across the state, and convenience store manager Amber Leuthardt said that trend has continued at their location.
“Our distributor brought it up a year ago and we figured let’s look at it. We needed something for our deli and, really, it’s been wonderful,” Leuthardt said. “We’ve sold a lot and it’s not even summer yet.”
But the biggest change is back at the restaurant, where a selection of beer and wine is now on the menu. Along Interstate 94, the next truck stop restaurant to offer alcohol is in Clearwater.
“I anticipate this to add a new dimension to dining in Fergus Falls,” Bunnis said. “I sincerely think that this town needs this. Our food is amazing and this just adds to what we already do right.”
While the convenience store already sold packs of 3.2 beer, many patrons and truck drivers want to enjoy a single drink with their meals. In the past, drivers would take food to-go, buy drinks from the store and return to their trucks to eat and rest. Now, they can enjoy their meals inside.
“We’ve just been listening. That’s what it amounts to,” Wachlarowicz said. “What sparked all of this was just listening to what our customers had to say.”
The process started in January and, with all the proper paperwork and procedures completed, the restaurant will serve beer and wine 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The truck stop is open 24 hours a day.
“We’re not going to be a bar by any stretch of the imagination,” Bunnis said. “We’re still the same family centered restaurant you can bring your kids out to.”
With so many new things to offer, both Bunnis and Wachlarowicz hurried with excitement as they talked about the future. The two will promote the new look with a contest this summer. Customers can write a name for the restaurant’s buffalo head on display in the dining area. A drawing will decided the winner of a dinner for two with a choice of drinks.
That local touch and flavor is what, despite any changes that come, continues to guide the truck stop.
“The homemade food selection and feel is so important to the travelers who stop here,” Bunnis said.
“It’s not like we’re cooking out of a bag,” Wachlarowicz said. “It’s feel good, yummy food.”