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McFeely: The Whopper replaces the Big Mac in Pelican Rapids

PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. — This Minnesota lakes country town is swapping burgers.

After losing its McDonald's restaurant this spring, the Park Region Cooperative convenience store/gas station at the south end of Broadway is replacing it with a Burger King.

"The Whopper replaces the Big Mac in Pelican Rapids," said Greg Larson, general manager of the co-op.

The McDonald's leaving after 10 years was big news in this small resort city of 2,400. The Golden Arches literally rolled out of town on a flatbed truck in mid-March when the restaurant didn't renew its lease. Larson said at the time he was hoping to fill the space connected to the convenience store with another chain fast-food restaurant.

It took a little longer than expected, but Larson said Tuesday, June 5, that a Burger King will open in late July or early August. Work has started on fitting the restaurant to Burger King corporate standards and Larson said the co-op will upgrade the bathrooms that are used by both convenience store and restaurant customers.

"We're excited. We're happy to have another restaurant moving in and hopefully it's here for a long, long time," Larson said.

The Burger King will be owned and operated by Michael Knoop of Frazee, who also owns the Burger King in Detroit Lakes. Knoop said he's been talking with the co-op for about a year. He said he signed a 10-year lease, contingent after three years on sales.

"It's a great little town. The Park Region board was phenomenal to work with," Knoop said. "Business will definitely be seasonal, it's a summer lakes town, but you've got the main highway going through there and a great school system. I think it's a town that's going to be growing."

Larson said having a restaurant operating in the same building as the co-op's convenience store will be beneficial for business.

"In April, I think we were down 12,000 gallons (of gas). Now, some of that was because April wasn't a very good month for weather," Larson said. "But things have been pretty good since then and really good since Memorial Day weekend and we expect them to get better."

Knoop said he foresees a long-term relationship.

"Hopefully we're going to be there for a long time," he said. "I hope it outlasts me."