Owners grateful to community for fine first month

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
After being open for a month, the owners of Klose & Kozy, the new family-style restaurant in town, have a heart-warming message for the community.

“There are so many people we want to thank for helping us get this started,” said Donna Klose, who is in partnership with husband Mike.

Their thank-you list includes family and friends; Vince Nikkel with Coldwell Banker American Realtors and wife Jessie; Rob and Tina Delk, who make homemade salsa for the restaurant; Megan Kilgore with the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce; Carl Long with Hillsboro State Bank; and the staff at the restaurant.

Donna’s son Keith Martin is the night cook and has gone beyond the call of duty, she said.

“He gives all his waking time helping at the restaurant. He is a great cook. We’ve had a lot of customers wanting to meet him.”

Jessie Nikkel has volunteered to waitress at the restaurant when Donna needed extra help. “And all of our staff, they’ve worked so hard and done whatever we needed to help get this thing on the road,” Donna said. “They’ve worked like a family.”

Donna has former restaurant experience, such as employment with The Windy Gap Inn in Winter Park, Colo. Her Colorado employer gave her a glowing recommendation when she left.

“Her character is impeccable,” wrote Susy Spears. “She is honest, easy to get along with, willing and an extremely hard worker.”

The value of a strong work ethic was echoed by Donna when she talked about the couple’s decision to open a restaurant on South Main Street.

“We just decided that we were both very hard workers, and we love to work,” Donna said. “We were putting out a lot of energy for everybody else, and we decided to do it for ourselves and have people work for us. And, we just decided it was time.”

Mike owns Klose Small Engine Repair and was formerly with Hillsboro Industries until he recently moved on to devote more time to the new restaurant.

“He’s great out here with everybody,” Donna said. “He’s a people person.”

The couple have been married eight years and live in rural Hillsboro close to Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church. Their blended family of three girls and two boys includes eight grandchildren.

Amid rave revues from repeat customers, the biggest complaint they’ve received is that their portions are too large, and their prices are too low, Mike said.

“I had somebody tell me the other day that he knew of a guy in Wichita who owned a big restaurant for years and years. He said, ‘If you don’t have a little bit of food on the plate coming back to the kitchen, they’re not getting enough.'”

Mike and Donna said they agreed with that restaurant philosophy. “We want them full, that’s for sure,” she said.

By the end of last year, the couple said they made the decision to start the new year out by looking for a restaurant location.

With the help of the Nikkels, Kilgore and Long, all the pieces fell into place in a retail space recently occupied by two previous restaurants.

The name Klose & Kozy, an obvious play on the couple’s last name, was the brain child of a family member.

“Just about everybody we knew said we needed to do something with Klose,” Donna said. “My nephew said, ‘Klose & Kozy’s kind of cute.’ At first, we blew it off. And then, all of a sudden, we decided-Klose & Kozy-that sounds good.”

In the remodeling process, they replaced the front-window treatment with curtains that let light in but provide customer privacy, found tables that can comfortably accommodate wheelchairs, added privacy lattice in a waitress work area, provided for more privacy in the rest-room-entrance area and added five booths along the north wall.

“Doesn’t it look comfortable and cozy,” Donna said with a hearty laugh as she alluded to the name of the restaurant. “People love booths,” she said. “And we have another set of five coming in the next week or so. We’ll have all booths along that (south) wall, too.”

The restaurant seats 82 customers. “And we usually do-all at the same time,” Donna said.

The couple was surprised with the positive response and large crowds from the first day they opened their doors on March 19.

“We were overwhelmed the first night,” Donna said. “For one thing, I guess we never thought that that many people in Hillsboro would go out to eat. But, we opened the doors, and this place was jam packed. And it still happens.”

Working thru opening-week glitches, the couple said they were happy to report smooth sailing by mid April.

“Everything’s just worked right along,” Donna said. “We train waitresses as we go. They’re getting better-getting into it. It was hard at first. But now, I’m just pleased.”

The couple divides their time at the restaurant.

“We fill in where ever,” Mike said. He usually comes in to work at 5:30 a.m. and then leaves when Donna shows up around 9 a.m. That allows him to work at his business before returning for the evening shift.

Kim Friesen is the day cook. Donna said she takes pride in son Keith taking over the night-cook duties. “He cooked for me in Winter Park,” she said. “He sure knows his kitchen. Keith has been a God send for us.”

Donna also cooks when needed, serves as a waitress and orders food. Wearing many aprons, Mike washes dishes, runs the cash register, busses tables, waits tables and cooks.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is available all day long.

A children’s menu also doubles as a place mat and coloring page so busy hands can be occupied while waiting for food.

In addition to pancakes, eggs, and french toast for little breakfast eaters, young ones can order from a variety of lunch and dinner items, such as chicken strips, hamburgers, bean and cheese burritos, and quesadillas. Prices range from $1.25 for a beef-or-chicken corn taco to $2.75 for a cheeseburger with fries.

“When you go to a kid’s table and ask how was it, they say, ‘It was the best hamburger I ever had,'” Donna said.

“And if they eat all their food-which the parents like-then they get a little bit of vanilla or chocolate pudding.”

For the grown-up patrons, the favorite breakfast menu item is two eggs with chicken-fried steak. That’s served with hash browns and toast for $5.95.

“Everybody loves our chicken-fried steak-not only for breakfast but for dinner, too,” Donna said. “They say they’re tender, you can cut them with a fork, the breading is just right, they taste good, and they’re huge.”

Other breakfast items include omelettes, biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes and french toast. Side items, such as oatmeal, cold cereal and cinnamon toast are also available.

Served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., lunch includes traditional sandwich favorites, such as hamburgers and cheeseburgers, ranging in price from $3.25 to $5.95.

The most popular sandwich is hot hamburger or beef served open-face with mashed potatoes and gravy.

“It’s a big hamburger or beef all covered with brown gravy and mashed potatoes,” Donna said. “It’s good.”

Mexican food is also on the lunch menu. “I’ve always made Mexican food,” Donna said. “My kids have always loved it, and I’ve cooked for everybody in town-made them Mexican food.”

Dinners are served from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Entrees include a choice of baked potato, french fries or mashed potatoes, soup or salad bar, a vegetable and roll. The favorite is the specialty-chicken-fried steak for $6.50. Other entrees include pork chops, steaks, chicken strips, shrimp, fish filet and ham steak.

Hamburgers, sandwiches and the salad bar are also available, and the dinner Mexican menu is expanded in the evening. The south-of-the border offerings include a generous portion of enchiladas and combo platters.

“People ask if they can substitute and we say, ‘You bet,'” Donna said. “If you’re hungry, and that’s what you want to eat, we do it.”

A pan-fried-chicken dinner for $5.95 is featured on Sunday thanks to Mike’s talents with an iron skillet and a recipe from his mom, LaVaughn Klose of Marion.

“It’s just the old style of frying chicken,” Mike said.

In addition to the regular menu items, the restaurant features daily lunch specials for $4.95. Look for lasagna with salad, garlic toast and a vegetable on Monday; hot-turkey sandwiches with salad and a vegetable on Tuesdays; chef’s choice, such as chicken and noodle casserole, on Thursdays; and meat loaf, mashed potatoes, salad and vegetable on Fridays.

Future plans include weekend entertainment. Mike, a guitarist and vocalist, plans to enlist the help of musically talented friends to play some blue grass and gospel tunes for patrons. That’s tentatively scheduled for late May or early June.

Asked why she thinks the new restaurant has been so successful to date, Donna said because they offer homemade food in a cozy atmosphere.

“I think people want to get away, go out for a nice dinner, relax and visit with friends,” Donna said. “Just about everybody knows each other, and they all come in and visit. Everybody seems to be having a good time.”

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