WALLA WALLA -- In celebration of the grand reopening of a popular restaurant, nearly 300 people gathered to listen to music, sample the new menu and enjoy time with friends at Mr. Ed's on Wednesday night.
The family restaurant's Isaacs Avenue location has been closed since December when a fire halted business. Since December, co-owners Dan Givens and Craig Potter have worked with local contractors to rebuild it, remodeling and upgrading as they went. Renovations include creating a larger dining space, bigger booths, a brand new bathroom and an improved kitchen.
The restaurant's theme shifted during the rebuild as well, taking the fireplace and Elvis out to provide more space for costumers. Along with physical changes, upgrades have been made to the menu including additions like Schwan's ice cream, more breakfast items, wraps and an "Off the Wall" menu.
The celebration included live music by the Johnny NoLand Band, balloon creations from Curly the Clown, flowers provided by B-Bop Flower Shop and balloons from Costume Creations. Along with the entertainment and food provided, Ed Volkman, creator of Mr. Ed's and a regular Sunday morning costumer, was there to cut the ribbon for the official reopening.
Lining the walls of the new dining area is their latest form of decoration that fits the restaurants family feel. Staff have begun to take photos of their regular costumers and frame the picture to hang on the wall. One photograph remains on the walls from before the fire, though charred and blackened by the smoke it is an important photo to the restaurant. A portrait of Ed and Norma Volkman hangs at the front of the restaurant. The photo, barely surviving the fire, is a symbol of where the restaurant has come from and has an honored place on the wall of family. During the renovations Givens and Potter had this idea in mind and had contractors build the walls with reinforcements specifically for hanging photos. Their goal is to fill the walls with those they consider to be family.
"It sounds hokey, but it really is a family operation," Givens said. "We treat our customers like family."
One of their goals after the fire was to keep the staff together, Givens said. This was possible because of the customer and employee loyalty as well as the Elks Lodge's allowing Mr. Ed's to set up temporary shop out of the Elks building. Now back in its own building, the staff is almost completely reunited at the eight month construction.
Because they have created so many bonds, reopening the restaurant is a meaningful experience to both owners.
"It means we have everyone working and we're back around the people we love," Potter said.
"It's a true family affair down here," said Givens.
"We're always looking to meet more family," he said, laughing.
Mr. Ed's is at 2555 E. Isaacs Ave. and is open all days of the week.
Jennifer Jorgenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.