Ole Barn BBQ, J&K both close

Published 11:58 pm Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bob and Lisa Nelson stand outside Ole Barn BBQ in December 2011 after they opened it. Ole Barn closed Monday, along with Oak Park Mall's other restaurant, J&K Restaurant. -- Herald file photo

Oak Park Mall loses both restaurants Monday, along with arcade

On Monday, Oak Park Mall went from two restaurants to none.

The Ole Barn BBQ closed Sunday after several months of breaking even financially, according to its owner, Bob Nelson, and J&K Restaurant closed Sunday as well. Ole Barn opened in December 2011 and J&K opened in May.

Nelson said they were breaking even month after month, and at some point, he had to pull the plug.

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“We invested a substantial amount of money into the mall, and we needed support from the community,” he said.

Nelson said the Austin community really likes its fast food, and it’s hard for sit down restaurants like his.

“We have to support our local businesses. If we don’t, we’re going to lose them,” he said. “All they’re going to be left with is McDonald’s and other fast food chains.”

Nelson said he hopes to open somewhere else, but doesn’t think it will be in Austin. He said he is looking at larger cities like Mankato or somewhere near the Twin Cities.

The Machine Shed arcade, also owned by Nelson and attached to Ole Barn, will close, along with the Ole Barn Country Store, a shop inside the restaurant with chocolates and canned barbecue sauce. Nelson’s other businesses, Restaurant Warehouse and Kitchen Warehouse, will stay open, and he will use them to sell his equipment from the restaurant.

J&K’s owner, Manny Taredes, was not immediately available for comment.

Shan Kehret, marketing manager for the mall, said this is a big loss for the mall.

“It’s very unfortunate that they closed,” she said. “I hate to see anybody lose jobs, and it’s sad to see them leave. They were a great asset to Oak Park Mall.”

There is good news for the mall, though.

Kehret said while the restaurants and arcade are closing, refurbished furniture store Willow Cove opened last week, jewelry shop Piece by Piece plans to open in November, and three other openings are pending. The mall’s movie theater, CineMagic 7, is also switching from analog projection to digital this week. The theater will stay open during the process.