BUSINESS PROFILE: River House Kitchen + Drinks, Hutchinson
It’s the latest venture for Hutchinson businessman, who continues to invest
in his community.
BY SCOTT THOMA
Eric Labraaten has been a successful businessman in Hutchinson for several years. But his focus is more about creating jobs for the city than basking in his own success.
Already owning and operating five businesses in and around the Hutchinson area, Labraaten recently ventured into the restaurant business. He is partnering with Ray Zeuli, and will open a new downtown restaurant and bar that will open in July called River House Kitchen + Drinks. The new establishment was formerly the Hutch Cafe.
“I’m excited about this,” he said. “I have a great partner in Ray, who has 25 years of experience working and managing restaurants.”
River House Kitchen + Drinks will continue to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner as the former cafe did.
“Some people were afraid we wouldn’t serve breakfast and they were happy to hear we will,” Labraaten said. “And we will offer mimosas and Bloody Marys with breakfast/brunch, too.”
One change at the new restaurant will be the addition of a bar and entertainment area on the second floor, which was formerly used as apartments.
“We are bringing in live music weekly and a comedy act monthly. Customers will still be able to eat upstairs, too.” said Labraaten, pointing to a dumbwaiter being built that will allow kitchen staff on the first floor to send the food to patrons in second-floor bar area.
Live music acts already booked include Johnny Holm and the Shaw Brothers, as well as local solo performers Jarrod Pederson and Nate Case.
There will also be an outdoor patio on the upper floor for customers to enjoy.
The Hutch Cafe was purchased from a family that had owned it for the past 53 years, so he knew it was a well-established business.
“I used to come in here and eat lunch with my friends,” Labraaten said. “I had been interested in buying the cafe for a long time. When I heard it was for sale, I decided to go into business with Ray.”
Both floors of the building are being refurbished.
“The only thing that will still be the same are the two outside walls and the floor,” Labraaten said. “Everything else will be new. There will be men’s and women’s bathrooms on both floors, too.”
Customers of the Hutch Cafe will likely not recognize the former eating establishment when it opens. But Labraaten is hoping they will enjoy the friendly atmosphere they are trying to project.
“We’re going to have a great staff who treat customers well,” he said. “We want everyone to feel welcome and enjoy some good food and drinks. We are still planning our menu, but we are expecting to offer some really good quality items.”
Along with some of the favorites offered at the former cafe, River House Kitchen + Drinks will serve soups, salads, gourmet burgers, wings, steaks and seafood.
“We will have a kid’s menu and a senior discount, too,” Labraaten said. “We want people of all ages to feel welcome.”
Labraaten started out his first business by offering medical transportation with one van out of his home in Hutchinson. He soon built that into a hugely popular transportation company called ACC Midwest Transportation, a Certified Special Transportation Provider designed to transport individuals from their residence, senior living facility or any other location, to their scheduled appointment. Because of a growing need for transportation by senior citizens, disabled people, or those without transportation, the company expanded its operations in the fall of 2020 to a bigger facility six miles north of Hutchinson.
“We celebrated our 10th anniversary in April,” he said proudly.
ACC Midwest Transportation provides non-emergency medical transportation in central and north-central Minnesota. It serves the counties of Brown, Carver, Kandiyohi, LeSueur, McLeod, Meeker, Nicollet, Redwood, Renville, Scott, Sibley, Stevens and Wright.
Eight years ago, the Labraaten Bus Company was born, which brought more jobs to town and served more local needs.
There are currently 90 employees that work full or part time for ACC Midwest and Labraaten Bus Company. Brianna Schornack is the manager of those businesses.
From the one van he started out with, Labraaten’s transportation and bus companies now have 39 special transportation wheelchair-accessible vans, six mini vans and cars for ambulatory service, and 10 oversized vans and six school buses used to transport students.”
Now in its fifth year, McLeod County Property Management, LLC is another of Labraaten’s companies.
The property management business purchases old and run-down homes in the area, refurbishes them, and rents them out. Some of the people that work for Labraaten are tenants of his rental homes. Schoernack also manages that company.
In July of 2021, Labraaten became a partner with Jordan Hoff with Auto Xpress, an automobile repair shop along Highway 7 on the northwest part of town.
“I love challenges,” Labraaten said. “I have a lot of drive and that comes from when I was in the Marines.”
Labraaten also started a company in 2021 called Able STS Training Solutions, which offers training in First Aid, CPR, Abuse Prevention, Defense Driving, and Passenger Assistance Safety and Sensitivity.
In all, Labraaten’s businesses have over 150 employees, who Labraaten gives credit for the success of each business.
“I couldn’t do this without my employees,” he said. “They deserve the credit.”
River House Kitchen + Drinks is hiring for all positions. For more information, call 320-587-9957 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
River House Kitchen + Drinks is located at 122 Main St. S. in Hutchinson. Visit their website at www.riverhousekd.com or Like their Facebook page.
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