ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
At 7 p.m. Thursday, McDonald’s closed its doors in Hillsboro, and chances are good that residents aren’t “lovin’ it.”
But after 12 1/2 years, and even closing out the best sales year he’s had so far, owner Dan D’Albini said it was time to sell the fast-food restaurant-golden arches and all-back to the McDonald’s Corp.
“They made me an offer to close the restaurant, and it’s an offer that I could no longer turn down,” said D’Albini, who moved to town in 1994 to open the McDonald’s at 812 East D. St.
“They contacted me about a month-and-a-half ago-this is the second time they’ve wanted to close the store.”
The reason they asked and D’Albini finally said yes?
“Extremely low volume,” he said. “This store does just under about 50 percent of what the average-volume store does for McDonald’s.
“But by doing that, it still had all the costs of doing business as McDonald’s-and it takes a lot of money to sustain a McDonald’s because the operating costs are so high,” he continued.
“So it’s been a big struggle at times.”
With new renovations and technology upgrades looming, D’Albini and McDonald’s both realized they couldn’t afford the expenditures it would take to keep the restaurant open for another year.
“It was going to be several hundred thousand (dollars),” D’Albini said. “They realized that it was too much, so they said let’s both cut our losses and go on our way.”
Thanks to faithful support from the community, the McDonald’s did last longer than D’Albini expected it would when he first moved here more than a dozen years ago.
“We drove in (to visit) on a Sunday afternoon, and this place looked like a ghost town,” he said.
“To a big degree, the town gets very quiet after three on a Saturday afternoon, but now there’s more life happening on Sundays, which has been good.
“I think Hillsboro is a great community-a great place to raise kids, to raise a family.”
Now he and his 24 employees will have to find new ways in the community to support themselves and families-and D’Albini hopes to stick around for awhile to see if he can make that happen here.
“The plan is that my wife (Elizabeth) and I will stay in Hillsboro,” he said. “But that really depends on how well we’re received into the community and the ability of finding employment.”
He’s done with restaurant management, he said, and will likely take some time off before he decides what to try next.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 27 years-so I really haven’t thought about it,” said D’Albini, whose father had McDonald’s restaurants in both Salina and Junction City before he died about 10 years ago.
“It’s something new for me.”
The closing will definitely mean something new for Hillsboro, too, although D’Albini said it will likely be awhile before anything takes the place of McDonald’s in the building, now fully owned by the McDonald’s Corp.
“I talked to them all the way up in the home office, and they’re just going to sit on it for the first few weeks of the new year,” he said.
“We’ll probably auction off the equipment either locally or nationally, but as far as the building goes, there’s a few things they could do.
“And they have the wherewithal to do whatever they want to do with it.”
According to Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke, another restaurant or big-name business will be needed to fill the vacancy left by McDonald’s.
“I’m very sorry that this is happening for Hillsboro,” Dalke said of the closing. “I believe it will hurt the image of Hillsboro-but I guess we’ll have to live with it and try to go on from here.
“We’re not given how much each particular business pays in sales tax, but I know that it will be a shock and it will lower the amount we are receiving,” she continued. “It will hurt our overall capital improvements fund.
“I hope that we find another restaurant that wants to be there.”
But Dalke also hopes, as D’Albini does, that he can find another way to continue contributing to the community.
“Dan has been such a huge supporter of a lot of the activities in town,” Dalke said. “So I really do hope that they can find something else to do in this community.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing to work with Dan.”