LUVERNE — After a brief hiatus, Vinnie's Dang Fine Dine re-opened for business this week under a new owner.
Leroy Austin of Garretson, S.D. plans to begin a breakfast menu Monday.
For Austin, the new venture represents a return to the first industry in which he was hired. His first job was as a dishwasher at Royal Fork in Sioux Falls, S.D. in the mid-1980s. He eventually worked his way up to managing different restaurants.
"I loved the interaction with the customers on a daily basis," Austin said of his start in restaurants.
However, as his family grew, Austin wanted to spend more time with his young children, so he made a drastic career change two decades ago and became a plastics salesman.
Austin said he was browsing the internet looking for a business opportunity when he stumbled across Vinnie Gacke's Craigslist listing for the restaurant. Austin met with Gacke to learn the details of the sale and discovered that during Austin's tenure at Royal Fork, Gacke was the restaurant's manager. He said Gacke remembered his long hair and tall stature, even some 35 years later.
As Austin and Gacke were working out the purchase agreement, Austin said Gacke told him he could do what he'd like with the establishment's name and character.
"I don't want to change a thing," Austin said. He'd read many restaurant reviews and realized that part of Vinnie's Dang Fine Dine's reputation was built on the name. He figured if it was working, why change it?
"Everyone's been really friendly and welcoming in the community," Austin reported. He said in the first week of re-opening Vinnie's, he has received more than 100 Facebook friend requests from Luverne and surrounding residents.
The community has been supportive by visiting the restaurant, too.
"It's gotten busier and busier every day," Austin said. "Obviously, there's a lot of die-hard fans.
"I told Vinnie I've never been in a cult before," he joked, "but this is almost like a cult."
He said some loyal customers have been eagerly waiting for the place to re-open so they could again enjoy some of Vinnie's classics.
Although Austin is keeping the restaurant's name and atmosphere, he's making a few exciting changes.
Beginning Monday, Vinnie's will be open for breakfast. He is also serving dinner on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Wednesday is steak night, with a rotation of different cuts of steak. Thursday features American comfort foods from chicken pot pie to scalloped potatoes and ham.
Austin has also added a kids' menu and now offers to-go orders.
The restaurant's new hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Austin said these hours will allow him to maintain his habit of prioritizing family time.
Another big change coming Monday is the addition of a card reader, so guests may pay by credit or debit card.
Austin said as he starts this new phase of his professional life, he is most excited to meet and interact with restaurant guests while he works behind the grill.