Dee’s Country Diner owner Susann Gillern talks to server Brandi Wolcott about the lunch menu. Photo by Carissa Wright.
Before beginning their third week in business on Monday, Mike and Susann Gillern had to turn customers away – their Birch Bay restaurant, Dee’s Country Diner, isn’t open on Mondays.
“All we did was turn on the lights and we had 50 customers,” Mike said.
The rapid success of their restaurant was something Mike and Susann never expected. They met while working in a restaurant 20 years ago, and the food industry has been a running thread in their lives ever since.
After a stint in construction – during which Mike actually worked on the building the restaurant is located in – the opportunity arose to open a restaurant of their own in the space.
It’s truly a family endeavor. One of Mike and Susann’s children works full-time washing dishes and helping in the kitchen, Mike’s mother helps out on the floor, and Mike and Susann’s other two children come in on the weekends to help anywhere they’re needed.
Even naming the restaurant was a family decision.
“The kids really wanted it to be ‘Dad’s Diner,’ but we didn’t like that,” Mike said. Since his children have called him “D” for years, the name of the restaurant satisfies all parties.
Work on the space started in April, and Mike had hoped to be open by July 4, Susann said.
“But that was a little ambitious,” she added.
The restaurant’s most popular dish is by far the country fried steak, Susann said. Offering breakfast all day has also been a big hit with customers.
The next step for Dee’s Country Diner is dinner service a few days a week. That may happen in the next two or three weeks, Susann said.
With an additional chef for those nights, they might add Mondays to the schedule, too.
Right now, Mike does all the cooking, and he’s in the restaurant from its 5:30 a.m. open to its 4 p.m. close. But he loves the restaurant business, he said, and the hours haven’t gotten to him.
“This is like my early retirement,” Mike said. “If you have fun working, then it’s not really work.”
Dee’s Country Diner is located at 4823 Alderson Road and can be reached at 360/393-4055.