Grumpy’s … a happy place

Published 10:56 am Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ross Manahan, owner of Grumpy's in Grand Meadow, has remodeled his restaurant for more pool tables, video games, bingo dancing and more. He has owned the venue since 2008, when he completely transformed its look. -- Matt Peterson/

Grumpy’s Restaurant in Grand Meadow amasses loyal patrons

It may only take about 30 seconds to drive through Grand Meadow, but one business clearly stands out.

Grumpy’s Restaurant and Lounge, which opened in 1998, is right along Highway 16, halfway through town. But a lot has changed since 1998, and Grumpy’s may be more popular than ever.

Ross Manahan, owner of Grumpy’s since 2008, still wonders how he serves such a large area in what he calls “the middle of nowhere.” Although Manahan also lives in Grand Meadow, he said people come from Rochester, Riceville, Spring Valley, Racine, Dexter, LeRoy and almost every other small town in the vicinity. What surprises Manahan is that people keep coming back — sometimes several times a week.

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Customers likely keep coming back because they’ve found a happy medium. Grumpy’s is in the small town setting, but it offers more than the typical small town bar. When Manahan took over Grumpy’s in 2008, he let his business background from IBM do some exploring with the facility.

“I didn’t like the fact there was 4,500 square feet of space being unused,” he said. Manahan referred to an empty room that was used for weddings and other parties. He saw it had much more potential.

Being a former pool fanatic, Manahan made space for four pool tables, foosball, video games; he revamped the dance floor, put in tables, decorations and another bar.

Grumpy’s already contained a full service restaurant and bar with seating for 175 people. But since 2008, Grumpy’s renovated backroom has offered an additional 150 seats, and many more events.

Manahan said Grumpy’s hosts poker tournaments, bingo, snowmobile runs and a slew of other events. For a pool tournament, Manahan said he brought in extra pool tables and hosted more than 100 players.

Like many other businesses, Manahan said he saw a slight dip in business last year. However, he thinks people are getting out again and spending their money.

Another reason Grumpy’s stays mostly busy is its large menu.

“Our menu is incredibly deep; it’s like six pages long,” Manahan said. And that menu is only getting deeper. Manahan just hired an executive chef to run his kitchen, adding to his already thick pool of more than 20 employees.

Things have been going smoothly for Manahan and his wife, Jill, who is his accountant. Manahan said the first quarter of 2011 has been good. But what he enjoys the most is that his work is never done. He’s always changing the restaurant or adding something completely new, so he won’t get in a rut or bore his customers.

“I call it my community service project,” he said.