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Detroit Lakes A&W says goodbye to much fanfare

“The last order was either a Double Papa Burger or a double bacon,” recalled employee Wendy Olson. “I’ve been working here for four or five years. At first, it (the last day) was sad, but then people kept coming in; the line grew and grew. By the end it was bittersweet.”

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A&W Manager Amanda Larson (left) and employee Wendy Olson were working on the restaurant's last day, which was Tuesday, Nov. 30. Larson started working at the Detroit Lakes store in 2014 and Olson has worked there for about five years.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — After serving Papa Burgers and Coney Dogs to the Detroit Lakes community for more than a decade, A&W has closed.

“The last order was either a Double Papa Burger or a double bacon,” recalled employee Wendy Olson. “I’ve been working here for four or five years. At first, it (the last day) was sad, but then people kept coming in; the line grew and grew. By the end it was bittersweet.”

Most employees at the fast food eatery, which is located in the Community Co-op Cenex on State Highway 34, knew the store’s last day would be Wednesday, Nov. 30. Store manager Amanda Larson said corporate offices broke the news to the crew at the end of October. However, mum was the word when it came to telling the public. Larson said that headquarters wanted it that way.

Keeping a secret can be a challenge and somehow the news made its way to a social media platform. There was such a large response that not all fans of the A&W food and homemade root beer (that is made fresh at each store) were able to get one last meal.

“We had to cut it off (due to closing time),” Larson said.

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The A&W restaurant will soon be Hot Stuff. The franchise is already at the Cenex store and serves breakfast burritos and sandwiches as well as pizzas for lunch. The food options will be expanded to include sandwiches, salads and more.

Larson said the space where A&W was located will become the new Hot Stuff kitchen and the current Hot Stuff kitchen will become a break room for the store employees.

Before Hot Stuff moves into the new space, A&W is providing a few extra paydays to employees who give the kitchen area a deep clean.

“We’re going to leave it spotless,” Larson said.

Some equipment and unopened products were purchased by the A&W in Park Rapids, Larson reported.

Problems began with staff shortages

The bumps in the road for A&W began with the COVID-19 pandemic, recalled Larson. Staffing shortages created chaotic hours for the business. Deciding it was better to have set hours, even if that meant closing earlier, the team opted to conclude service at 5 p.m. Drive-thru availability was also subject to the number of team members on the clock.

“When you only have three on (the clock), we can run the front counter, but not both,” Larson said. “We did our best to serve our customers.”

Larson said the team she has worked with became very close, which made saying goodbye all the more difficult. Bidding adieu to customers has also chipped away at the hearts of employees.

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Olson noted they have regulars, and yesterday she finally learned the name of a woman who comes in three times a week to order a chicken sandwich.

Larson added that the whole A&W crew wanted to give a big “thank you” to their customers. Right after she said that, a man stepped up to the counter and examined the menu. She broke the news, “we’re closed.”

“When do you open?” asked the man.

“We don’t,” Larson replied.

Related Topics: BECKER COUNTYDETROIT LAKES
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