Olde Towne reopens with new owner and interior facelift

A Hillsboro dining institution, combined with the determination and energy of a veteran Marion County restauranteur, will come to full expression today with the grand re-opening of Olde Town Restaurant and Bakery.

Owner Brenda McGinness will open the doors at 3 p.m. to a thoroughly remodeled business that combines full-service dining seven days a week with her Brenda?s Bloomers Flowers & Gifts business in the historic 1887 building at 126 N. Main.

?I just believe this is what God wants me to do and I have to do it,? McGinness said about the project. ?This is a gift he?s given me to do, and I just want to spread that around and love people.?

Though divinely inspired, opening for business has taken 10 months and a ton of human energy.

?This is easily the biggest project I?ve done,? McGinness said. ?I started with little and have progressively grown. This is the biggie.?

McGinness began her restaurant-development career when she opened the Big Scoop in Marion in 1997. Two years later, she opened McGillicuddy?s on Marion?s Main Street and operated it for 51?2 years.

She opened Brenda?s Bloomers in 2006. After moving the business to Hillsboro, she opened The Salad Bowl as a companion business last year.

?The Salad Bowl went really well,? McGinness said. ?People kept encouraging us to do something bigger because there was nothing here (like it).

?We just saw the need, and are trying to help the community and businesses in town because I think with (Olde Towne) not being here, it affected a lot of things,? she added. ?So we went for it, and here we are.?

But it took a while to get there. She first looked at the building back in December. She was one of three restaurant operators who expressed interest in moving in, but was not selected at first.

?When that kind of all fell through, they came to me and asked if I wanted to do it,? she said. ?We thought about it a lot and felt, well, let?s try it.?

McGinness signed a lease for the building in May?but the building needed a lot of work. Owner Bob Voth of Lawrence put on a new roof and updated the plumbing, electrical and other aspects to bring the building up to code.

McGinness took it from there?and her list of projects was long.

A thorough renovation

?We started in the kitchen,? she said. ?There was nothing here when we started. Zero. So we gutted the kitchen, put all new wallboard on the wall and ceiling for easy cleaning, and in the back work area. The dish room?that?s all brand new, too.?

The floor in the entry area was redone and the walls in the three dining areas were repainted, decorated and then equipped with tables and chairs purchased in Kansas City.

The east wall of the main dining room features the large carpet mural of the building created years ago by Max Heinrichs Sr. The mural had been stored in the basement for several years.

?It was just deteriorating down there,? McGinness said. ?I said, ?This just has to go with this. It has to happen.??

A key addition is a handicap-accessible ramp along the exterior south wall.

?That?s huge,? she said.

McGinness also added a handicap-accessible bathroom near the rear of the building. By permanently stabilizing the large freight elevator in the middle of the first floor, diners with disabilities will have easy access to the room.

The stone-walled basement will house the work room for the flower business, with a cooler located upstairs in the entry area for counter sales.

On the south side of the basement, a dining room with seating for around 50 will be available for Sunday overflow or for groups. Featured is the center waterfall that was popular in the restaurant?s former days.

McGinness won?t estimate the number of hours she and her crews have invested in the project, but admits, ?This has been more than I ever thought.?

?Since I?ve taken over, I have to make everything to code,? she added. ?So if you do one thing, you end up doing six things.?

Those never-ending new projects?the most recent being installing new water heaters and a larger natural-gas line?delayed her intended opening. Her first public exposure was serving food to patrons of the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair Saturday.

?I had hoped to have two months under my belt before we did that,? she said.

Extensive menu

When food service officially begins this week, McGinness plans to offer a full breakfast line beginning at 6 a.m.?and will have it available all day.

?We?ll have breakfast combos, we?ll have omelets, waffles, pancakes?all that good ol? stuff,? she said.

For lunch, diners can choose items from a daily buffet Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

?Beyond what we want to put on the buffet, we?ll have our full menu,? she added. ?You can order sandwiches and salads, you can get hamburger steak if you want, or a chicken-fried. We can do fried chicken, too.?

Dinner will be served by menu only. McGinness will bring back the popular German buffet on Saturday evenings, but plans to expand the ethnic offerings during the week.

?I?d like to do German buffet, but also Chinese night and Italian night.?

McGinness will focus on management duties and leave most of the cooking to others.

?I have a culinary-arts student that has one more semester, and she will have completed her culinary arts training,? McGinness said. ?So she wants to do the special nights.?

In addition to the daily food service, the bakery will be up and running, too, with fresh breads available for the public.

Quiet confidence

Though the investment of time, resources and personal energy has exceeded initial expectation, McGinness is quietly confident about her decision to move ahead with this multi-faceted undertaking.

?I just feel this is what I?m supposed to do?it?s what I have to do,? McGinness said.

?I feel I have a really good staff right now,? she added. ?We?ll just have to see how we work together, because you never really know until you do it.

?They?re ready to work, they?re wanting to work. I?m ready to do it, too. I?ve done enough cleaning and painting and getting it ready.?

Success for McGinness means more than operating a restaurant and flower business that shows a profit at the end of the day.

?I want this place to be a place for people to come and have a good meal?not expensive?and feel like they?re at home,? she said. ?I want them just to enjoy being here, even if it?s to come and have a cup of coffee and a cookie.

?I just want to serve the people of Hillsboro and the surrounding towns,? she added. ?I know when I first said I was going to do this, business owners came around and said thank-you because they have felt the impact of this place not being here. So they?re very excited about this being here to help them again.?

?If that?s what happens, then it?s done what I have set out to do.?

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