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Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Brillion gets a McDonald's"

I went to lunch at McDonald’s this afternoon.

Normally, a statement like that would be a rather mundane one. But in this case, not so much. My city has never had a McDonald's -- not until yesterday. This is -- officially -- the first McDonald's restaurant in the history of Brillion. It's pretty big news around here.

Now I should probably explain a few things for those of you who don't live in Brillion. This is a city of only 3,000 people. Where I used to live -- in Milwaukee -- McDonald's restaurants are a dime a dozen. They're everywhere. When you live in a major metropolis like that, you take certain things for granted. But, here, in a small city, getting a McDonald's for the first time is like having a well-known celebrity move to town. It’s different. It's new. It's exciting. It makes your small city seem just a little bit bigger.

Yes, eventually, the excitement will fade, the newness will disappear, and before long, it'll seem commonplace to eat lunch at the local McDonald's. But for now, it's a big deal. For now, you just have to sit back and enjoy that cheeseburger. Because, before yesterday, you had to drive ?? miles to get it.

So, yeah, I had lunch at the new Brillion McDonald's. Unbeknownst to the throng of patrons filling up every booth on this Grand Opening Saturday, I wasn't there just to satisfy my mid-day hunger. I could review it here on my blog. I may be a relative newcomer to Brillion myself (ever since getting married, and moving here in July). But who better to review a new restaurant, than one of Brillion's newest (former big-city) residents.

I've actually been watching the construction of this McDonald's since ground was broken this past summer. Before then, the property used to be the old Sandman Motel -– one of those stereotypical small ranch-style motels. You know, the one-floor half-moon-shaped buildings that sprang up decades ago. It had stood empty for some time, just waiting to be torn down and redeveloped. Finally it's day came. It was razed, and now, in its place sits the newest McDonald's in the state of Wisconsin.

I was a little surprised when I entered through the front door this afternoon. I was expecting a tiny McDonald's. Something crammed into an itty-bitty space -– as you so often see of franchises in small towns. But this place was deceptively spacious for its size. And contemporary in style. There was a nice-sized dining area complete with earth tone décor; a large modern hip-looking brightly-colored mural on one entire wall; booths along the mural wall and front windows, with high stool tables in the center of the room; and an unexpectedly large food-prep area behind the ordering counter.

The restaurant was also well-staffed with friendly workers. Lots of workers. Granted, this was only the second day on the job for them, but I was still impressed. I'm sure most of the staff was present in order to get on-the-job training, but it was still nice to see their enthusiasm for their new place of employment. And even for things as mundane as mopping the floor so that the throng of Brillionite pations didn't slip and fall on the slick surface (due to the snow being tracked in from outside).

And speaking of throng, the place was packed. I was lucky just to get one of the small stool tables in the center of the dining area. About as many people as were sitting at the booths and tables, were outside eating out in their cars, just to have a place to sit! I'm sure the patronage will die down to "normal" levels in a few days. But still... that’s a lot of people eating lunch at McDonald's -- at 1:30pm on a Saturday!

I'm intrigued as well to see what business(s) go into the commercial space adjacent to the new McDonald's. It's a small modern retail structure, and there's room for two new shops next door. The space is still empty, and I haven't heard any news about additional tenants, but the possibilities are endless. We might even get a local shop or two to relocate. Afterall, with a 42-space parking lot and newfound traffic, this former motel property has become prime retail space.

Anything could happen. When it does, you'll probably hear about it here.

All-in-all, though, I enjoyed my first visit to our new local Micky-Ds. I like their cheeseburgers. Always have. Until this weekend, the only fast food options in Brillion were a Dairy Queen, and a Subway tucked into the back of one of the gas stations. I'm sure DQ will lose some business to the Golden Arches across the street, but they'll remain the destination of choice for ice cream and Blizzard treats. Subway will remain the unchallenged local sandwich shop. And, there's actually a new Chinese restaurant going in on main street as well. That might be worth checking out too when it opens.

For now, well, small-city Brillion has a brand new McDonald's. And I -– a fan of tasty one-dollar cheeseburgers -– am a very happy resident!

IMAGE: See a photo of Brillion's new McDonald's in my neighborhood photos!

To learn more about Brillion, check out the Brillion, Wisconsin Facebook page!


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