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Restaurateur re-opens Hillsboro icon

Managing editor

It’s as if fate keeps steering Brenda McGinness back to the business of serving food.

She’s tried to get away from it — she had been owner of Brenda’s Bloomers and Gifts in Hillsboro for the past four years. But when an opportunity presented itself, McGinness added salads and sandwiches to her flower and gift shop.

“When I had the Salad Bowl, people encouraged me to re-open Olde Towne Restaurant,” she said.

So, she did. McGinness asked that her name be added to the list of people interested in the former restaurant building at 126 N. Main St., Hillsboro. That was December 2009.

As the list became shorter with plans changing for those on the list, McGinness’ name came to the top and the owners asked her to consider leasing the property. She jumped at the chance. Since May, McGinness has been busy preparing the building for operation.

It re-opened Sept. 22.

McGinness had hoped to move her flower shop with the gift shop but it just didn’t work out.

The focus of the business clearly is a full-service restaurant, specializing in home-cooked meals. Gift items are available in the front waiting area.

No stranger to restaurant operations, McGinness has been in the restaurant business off and on for more than 10 years.

Her business ownership began in 1985 when she purchased Kraft Korner in Marion.

“I remember that year because it was the year my daughter, Joanna, was born,” she said.

Twelve years later, she purchased The Big Scoop in Marion and continued owning and operating the gift shop.

Wanting to try her hand at a full-service restaurant, McGinness purchased another building in Marion, opening McGillicuddy’s restaurant in 1999. For more than five years, she and husband David owned and operated it.

Eventually, the couple moved the gift and flower shop to Hillsboro but McGinness hadn’t lost her desire to operate another restaurant.

“I have a passion for it,” McGinness said. “I really enjoy doing this.”

Re-opening the historic restaurant is like a dream come true.

“This is my kind of building,” she said. “It’s old and antiquey.”

The Olde Towne building is twice as big as any restaurant McGinness has owned. The building had been empty for more than a year when cleaning began in May.

When the restaurant closed in December 2008, everything was removed — fixtures, furniture, and equipment. So, McGinness had to start from scratch. In addition to new furnishings, carpet has been added in some areas, as was new paint, and renovations were completed in the kitchen. A bathroom was converted for handicapped patrons and a ramp was installed on the south side of the building.

This time around, the veteran business owner wanted to include a bakery with the restaurant. Zwieback and butter horns are made daily — served with meals and available at the front counter — as are tea rings, quick breads, cookies, and homemade pies.

“I wanted homemade rolls and pies with the meals so it made sense to have a bakery,” McGinness said.

Breakfast is served all day and the hours of operation cover all three meals.

“I want to be open when people want to eat,” McGinness said.

She has also discovered that buffets are popular, so she’s serving two buffets every day but Sunday. By popular demand, a German buffet will begin Saturday.

Wanting to offer menu items not available elsewhere, McGinness is planning to have specialty foods in the evenings including Mexican and Italian cuisine.

McGinness’ goal is simple — she wants Olde Towne to be the destination restaurant in the area.

“I want people to come to Hillsboro for the food,” she said.

And it seems to be working.

“I’ve seen a lot of Hillsboro people but I’ve also seen a lot of people I’ve never seen before,” she said.

McGinness knows keeping the established name, it may help former customers find the newly opened restaurant.

Having a downtown restaurant open helps other businesses — giving shoppers and patrons one more reason to stay in town or more reason to come to the community.

She has expanded her employment base from two or three at the former Brenda’s Bloomers business to 15 at the restaurant, and McGinness said she wouldn’t mind having a third cook.

Plans include renovating the basement in the 125-year-old building for banquets and parties.

“I want people to have a good experience when they come here,” McGinness said. “Good food, good fellowship, and a good time.”

Last modified Oct. 13, 2010

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