“This month we celebrated our third-year anniversary in the restaurant business.”

“Before this, Tom was in the wholesale bakery business and had a feel for much of what was needed to run a restaurant. This was something we both had always wanted. We looked for years until we found this location on Barron Lake here in Niles, MI.”

“We grew up as lake babies, so finding a bar on the lake was important to us. I grew up fishing and ice fishing here with my grandfather. My grandparents used to live just down the street – it’s a great little town.”

“This community has really rallied around us and supported us over the past year. Since we are so close to Indiana, and both states were shut down the first time, people didn’t have much of a choice other than carry-out or drive-thru.”

“The second time around, with Indiana staying open, things were much more difficult. Carry-out orders were not as good. We considered closing for any sort of carry-out the second time around. When the extension came, we were worried. But the local community stepped up when that happened. They wanted to make sure our local places survived.”

“We had been seeing some places, especially in upper Michigan, start using ice shanties for outdoor dining. We thought that was neat. And then right before Christmas, one of our local businesses gave us a sizable donation and that helped us be able to purchase our first three shanties.”

“Right after the holidays, we had three more donations that made it possible for us to purchase another four more shanties. That’s been a huge help for us in accommodating people for outdoor dining through the winter.”

“People and businesses are still absolutely struggling; revenue is down for everyone. We’re all just trying to do what we can to survive on some level.”

“At the same time, we’ve seen so much support from the community, and even restaurants helping each other out. Some decide to forgo breakfast on the weekends because they say they don’t want to hurt the competition, so they choose to open for breakfast the days the others are not.”

“We’ve lost some of our employees, but we’ve been focused on making sure the parents, the adults that work here and have children, are getting hours and a paycheck throughout all this.”

“It’s a challenge. Every day something is different, and it seems like there’s something new to learn each day.”

“The generosity of the customers has also been wonderful, like when a customer who comes in and gets just a burger and fries that costs them $8 goes ahead and leaves a $20 tip. That has meant so much to our employees.”

“We’ve done our best to know our people by name when they walk in the door. If you give to your customer, they give back to you and I can honestly say that has been one of the most amazing things about being here.”

Tom and Rachel Wegner
Wegners’ Lakeside Bar & Grill
Niles, MI