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Maid-Rite opens in downtown bringing old-fashioned flare to DL

Maid-rite employees line up behind the counter of the '50s style diner where special recipes and slow-smoked meat are served up in a quick-serve style.1 / 2
Maid-Rite owners Donavon and Paula Quam started the diner with the hopes of giving the city another fun, fast and unique place to eat.2 / 2

The newest restaurant to open its door in the Downtown Crossing, Maid-Rite Diner may be the second oldest food franchise -- second to A&W restaurants -- but many people around Detroit Lakes had never heard of it before it came to town. That includes owners Donavon and Paula Quam.

Since its opening two weeks ago though, the quick serve diner has had a line of people to the door every noon and evening.

"Two words: Plain craziness," Donavon described the first week of being open for business. "We've had a lot of local support."

While at work as a reporter for Detroit Lakes Newspapers, Paula said a press release came across her desk from Maid-Rite looking to expand to Detroit Lakes. She had never heard of the restaurant but after a quick search online, decided to see what her husband thought.

"I e-mailed him and said, 'I think I just found you your next career,'" she said.

The Quams soon found themselves in Iowa about a month later, talking with the CEO of Maid-Rite.

Butcher Fred Angell started the restaurant in 1926 in Iowa after finding just the right cut of and grind of meat and blend of seasons. The story goes, though, that he wasn't a great speller.

The restaurant is very popular in Iowa, and Paula said people from Iowa stop in the Detroit Lakes Maid-Rite to share memories of growing up with the restaurant.

"There really is a cult-like following," Donavon said.

It's nice to see new people satisfied and coming back too though, he added.

"It makes it all worth it."

Buying a restaurant franchise seemed like a right fit for the Quams because they both enjoy cooking and entertaining. Paula added that her husband is "a clean freak" so it worked well to go into the restaurant industry. They both also enjoy chatting with those coming through their door.

They said it's been fun to see people they've met over the last 10 years that they've lived in Detroit Lakes come through the door of their new business. And even more fun to see them keep coming back.

While they were in Iowa, "we thought it was just unique enough for Detroit Lakes," Paula said. "It's a fun, different niche."

"We got a good vibe from the people at corporate, too," Donavon added of the Iowa restaurant leaders they met before buying into the franchise.

Also knowing that the Downtown Crossing development was going up, the Quams knew that would be the best location to open their restaurant.

"The developers were excited, too, because it was something different," she said.

Since signing the papers and taking a leap into the business owner world, Paula said they watched the progress of Downtown Crossing on a regular basis.

"It's been fun to watch the whole building process," she said.

They used local contractor Scott Bristlin to complete their diner.

While people don't have to wait long to get their food, Paula said it's not fast food but rather a "happy medium." Meals are made to order, and the food is made fresh at the restaurant. They slow cook their own pork and turkey overnight and prepare it.

Maid-Rite is open Monday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Oh, and for the record, Paula said with a laugh, she didn't squash any competition for the franchise on Maid-Rite but instead ran the original press release sent to the newspaper about Maid-Rite seeking owners to expand the business to Detroit Lakes.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.