Lakefield's Hi-Lo gets new owners — and a 1950s-era update
New owners Jim and Tresa Hussong hope to serve some of the same kinds of foods at the Hi-Lo, but are planning to update the space with a throwback Rat Pack-era feel.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be like the 1950s, less the cigarette smoke,” said Jim, who had his first date with Tresa at the Hi-Lo. He recalled Tresa being appalled when he ordered the spaghetti, a very sloppy choice for a first-date food.
The Hussongs purchased the Lakefield mainstay from Syd and Nadine Malchow, who bought the business in 1989, and probably catered between 300 and 400 off-premise events every year they owned it. They sold the business after Syd was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in August 2020.
“We’re just at the point in life where we needed to focus on his health, and we’re at retirement age,” Nadine said.
They put the business up for sale in October 2020, with the understanding that the Malchows would close up at the end of the evening on New Year's Eve, whether it sold or not.
The sale to the Hussongs was complete as of Sept. 1, a process sparked by potato salad.
“When they opened (Dudley’s Garage), they contacted us and asked for the Hi-Lo potato salad recipe,” Nadine recalled. “Instead of selling the potato salad recipe, we made and sold potato salad, there at the garage.”
One conversation led to the next, and the Hussongs ended up purchasing the Hi-Lo, too.
Jim said they bought the restaurant, essentially, for Lakefield, out of love for the town where he and Tresa grew up.
“We have a big interest in keeping the town strong and growing,” Jim said. “It’s 75 years old this year, and it’s been a staple in this area. … we want to keep the area strong and Lakefield strong.”
The Hussongs bought the bowling alley, now Dudley’s Garage, because they knew if it disappeared it wouldn’t ever come back, Jim said.
“So it’s more about the community than it’s about us — but it’s been a fun ride,” Jim said.
The Hussongs do plan to make some changes, but they’ll still have many of the same foods, such as steak, fish, lobster and pastas.
They also hope to get some of the former Hi-Lo employees back, if they’re interested in returning.
The redesign of the Hi-Lo building has already begun, and Jim said the plan is to have velvet curtains, booths and maybe even a piano bar upstairs. The entrance will be changed with the removal of the walk up ramp, and there will be a private party room for corporate events or family gatherings. The downstairs bar will have more of a speakeasy feel to it, Jim said, and he hopes to keep the dance floor there as well, so live bands can play at the restaurant in the future.
While the restaurant portion of the business will likely reopen in the spring, the Hussongs hope to begin catering much sooner, within the month, and have already begun booking weddings in 2022.
The Hi-Lo has been a Lakefield tradition for 75 years, and the Hussongs hope to honor that tradition going forward.
“People have for years gone to the Hi-Lo and enjoyed it, and they have so many memories,” Jim said.
The Malchows agreed.
“We feel very good about them, that we are handing this responsibility over to them,” Nadine said. “I know that they will continue the Hi-Lo legacy.”
She extended a heartfelt thank-you to all the Hi-Lo customers over the years, and to the staff as well, praising them for their supportive kindness.
“They were the best,” Syd added.