Lakes Bar and Grill under experienced new ownership

ANDERSON GROUP, LLC, purchased The Lakes Bar and Grill earlier this year. Although running a restaurant is taxing physically, their goal is to have fun. Group members are (left) Pam Anderson, Josh Anderson, Jody Anderson, Mike Anderson and Adam Anderson. Mike and Jody previously owned the Hillside Resort and were assisted in running it by their sons Josh and Adam.

On Saturday morning, the Andersons were sitting at a round table, discussing the day. Muffins sat in a plastic container. Mike and his sister Pam were drinking coffee.

The round table was appropriate because the venture about which they were speaking was one in which they are equally invested as the Anderson Group, Inc. Pam, along with Mike and his wife Jody, and their two sons Adam and Josh, purchased The Lakes Bar and Grill earlier this year.

"Our main objective is to have fun," Mike said. "Good things happen if you have fun."

For longtime area residents, Mike and Jody Anderson are familiar faces. They purchased the Hillside Resort in 1993 as newlyweds and operated it through good times and bad until selling the business in 2015. They endured the 500-year flood of 1993.

"It was kind of a rough first year," Jody commented.

They endured a fire on Sept. 9, 1997.

"We lost our home and our business," Mike noted. "We built it back and opened in January 1998."

A tornado almost took out the business again in 2001. They have pictures to prove how close the twister came to the Hillside. On top of that, the day-to-day challenges of restaurant work are physically taxing, but they found they couldn't just walk away.

"One of the things you really miss is the people," Mike said.

Since selling the Hillside, they have not been enjoying a leisurely retirement. Mike has been serving as the program director for the senior meal programs at Interlakes Community Action Partnership, and Jody has been working as a substitute teacher in the Chester Area School District.

In embarking on this business venture with Pam and their sons, the Andersons are returning to work they enjoy, but they are also helping their sons, especially Josh, realize their dreams. He studied business and accounting at Augustana University with the goal of owning and operating a restaurant.

"Watching my mom and dad growing up, I wanted to follow in their footsteps," he said.

After his parents sold the Hillside, he worked at Sodak's Marina, going full-time after finishing college. He did leave that position to become the general manager of The Lakes. While he's had to put a few things in his life on hold because the work is consuming at present, he's happy in what they're doing because he gets to see friends and community members who come in to dine and have a good time.

"That's what make it fun. That's what makes it enjoyable," Josh said.

Adam has not set aside his full-time job, which is teaching middle school English in Flandreau, where he is also the announcer at athletic events and the golf coach. Having worked at the Hillside from the time he was old enough to wash dishes, he couldn't imagine not being part of a new family endeavor.

"I wanted to take part in this with these crazy people," he said. He acknowledged that The Lakes is a bar, but he believes it is more than a bar that serves food. "We take pride in the quality of our food."

Only Pam comes to the business venture with no restaurant experience. She is a retired school counselor and served in the Arizona Army National Guard until retiring in 2014. She said she was honored to be asked to join her brother's family in buying The Lakes.

"My plan is to help out where I can," she said. She is so committed, she even purchased slacks. Previously, she's only visited South Dakota when she could wear shorts.

Currently, The Lakes is open Thursday through Sunday from 4-10 p.m. They have nightly specials, including prime rib on Saturday nights and prime rib sandwiches on Sundays.

"As soon as the weather changes, we'll be open seven days a week," Mike said.

Right now, the Andersons are working to build and train their staff. While they may pride themselves on their food, they know good service is part of a quality experience. Their approach is simple: they work side by side with their employees.

"Technically, they may work for us, but really, they work with us," Pam said.

"We don't ask them to do anything we wouldn't do ourselves," Jody added.

This includes participating in decision-making where appropriate and offering suggestions which will help to build the business. Mike explained that when employees are encouraged to contribute in a meaningful way, they have a greater sense of ownership.

"If they're proud of what they're doing and they're having fun, they will work harder," he said.

Mike is considered by his business partners to be the one most responsible for the quality of the food coming out of the kitchen.

"He's always coming up with new ideas," Adam said. "He's very creative."

As the only member of the Anderson family who hasn't been in the restaurant business previously, Pam has learned about the family dynamics which make them successful.

"We all bring our own strengths to the business," she observed, adding they didn't need a clearly articulated plan delegating responsibilities as she thought. "We all just fell into our own little places."

Adam believes this is because, as individuals, they are adaptable.

"We have our natural niche but fill in where we're needed," he said.

They also know the power of compromise, according to Mike, who believes that results in the best solutions.

"It doesn't mean you give up your ideas. You just compromise and work together as a group," he indicated.

That they can tease one another was clearly evident in Jody's response to that.

"Just so you know, we did not compromise on the iPad," she said.

Having worked in restaurants since she was a teenager, writing up an order is second nature for her. Navigating the nuance of an iPad to take an order is a challenge, but one with which she copes because she is surrounded by tech-savvy partners.

As the business gets off its feet under their ownership, the Andersons are grateful to previous owners who kept the doors and "did a fantastic job." They're grateful to community members who have already come out to enjoy their nightly specials.

"We've seen quite a few faces we haven't seen for quite a while," Mike said.

They're also looking forward to being among the area businesses that work to develop the lake area for the community and seasonal residents. They hope people will drop in for their charbroiled burgers and steaks and for their prime rib.

"In my opinion, our prime rib is the best of anywhere in South Dakota," Mike said.