Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 14, 2005

Red's Cafe owners celebrate 30 years

By Liz Hellmann
Correspondent

Six stools inside of an old bus body began holding truck drivers awaiting food in 1931 at the corner of Highway 12 and Buffalo Ave. South in Montrose.

Since then, the restaurant – now known as Red’s Café – has built itself a permanent place in the community.

Larry and Diane Miller recently celebrated 30 years of business under their ownership.

Today, the old bus body is long gone, but Red’s Café is still serving up the same quality food and friendly small-town atmosphere it always has.

“When Larry and I first bought it, we had no idea that it would become what it has,” Diane Miller said about the restaurant.

The Millers bought Red’s Feb. 1, 1975 and have built additions onto the dining and kitchen area, along with re-siding the whole building last year and putting on a new roof.

As Red’s has grown, so has the community around it.

“When we first took over Red’s, Montrose was quiet little community of 240 people, and today they’re putting up houses all over, and land is being annexed to the city,” Larry said. “It’s a pretty exciting time for Montrose.”

Because Montrose is growing and changing, Red’s has had to adjust and change as well.

When it was first built, Red’s was mainly a truck stop for truckers hauling to and from the Twin Cities, but with all the new houses being built in the area today, needs have changed.

“We had to go from a truck stop to a family type restaurant,” Larry said. The menu has changed to offer more selection, and to keep up with what customers want.

“We try to do the full gamut,” Larry said, “but I still like our homemade American fries and hamburgers.”

Catering was added to Red’s list of services in the early ‘80s.

Now Red’s oftentimes caters events three to four times during the week, and as many as four weddings on a Saturday.

“Over the years, a lot of people have helped us cater,” Diane said.

Red’s has also been involved with the Meals on Wheels program in Waverly and Montrose.

Not everything about Red’s has changed. It’s still a small-town restaurant that appeals to people in the community.

“I love the people, I love the customers,” Larry said. “It’s fun to visit with them when they come in.”

The Millers remember years ago when people would go to Leo and Clive’s bar and dance to an old time band.

When the bar would close, people would come over to Red’s for hamburgers and eggs.

“People would be lined up out the door to get in,” Larry said.

The restaurant has been a family affair for the Millers, with all four of their children growing up working in the restaurant.

“I still remember having family dinners and there would be a crisis at the restaurant, and we’d have to get up and leave,” Diane said.

But the Red’s family doesn’t stop with the Millers. Seven of Mike and Mary Dongoski’s eight children worked at Red’s at different points of their lives.

“That’s what got them through high school,” Mary said.

The restaurant employs 20 to 25 people with Kathy Duske, Debbie Horsch, Dawn Laidlaw, and Phyllis Quirk working there for more than 14 years. Diane Benson and Steve Hayes have worked at Red’s for 25 and 23 years respectively.

“Quite a few of the girls have been there for 15 to 16 years; it’s fun working with them. We all get along and have a good time,” Horsch said.

Two pictures of customers who stopped at Red’s over 70 years ago, – the customers that started it all – are hanging just inside the door of the café.

Those pictures reflect the spirit of what Red’s has always been about, something that the Millers do not want to change.

It’s customers like that who have made 30 years of ownership possible for the Millers.

“We are both so very, very grateful to all of the people that have stopped, to all of our customers,” Larry said.

Famous diners at Red’s Cafe

Throughout the years, several famous people have enjoyed a meal at Red’s Cafe.

“(Former vice president, senator, and Waverly resident) Hubert Humphrey used to frequent here,” Larry Miller said. “Toward the end, he would send his chauffeur over for malted milks.”

Late night funnyman Jay Leno also made a stop at Red’s several years ago while in town checking out a motorcycle collection.


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