The Prairie House, a unique restaurant with old fashioned home-style cooking, has served the community of Gaylord for over 30 years. RNDC’s involvement with Prairie House began in 2003 when Shirley Meger decided to purchase the business with the help of a loan from RNDC.
Shirley Meger’s love for cooking began at an early age. Growing up in a family of 10, she learned to cook by helping out. At the age of 15 she took all her personal experience and went to work at Ann’s Café in Belle Plaine. She credits this position with teaching her how to deal with people of all ages. Later Shirley moved on to a larger restaurant where she gained management experience and an understanding of [the ins and outs of] the restaurant business.
Shirley’s vision for success when she purchased Prairie House was founded on a commitment to service. Today, she and her son David Waller continue to operate Prairie House in this spirit of service: service to their customers, their community, and their employees. These three principles are the cornerstones of Shirley’s.
The economic recession of 2009 devestated many small businesses throughout the county including Prairie House. Customers weren’t able to spend the money they once could. To add to the financial burden of declining sales, Shirley had recently moved from Belle Plaine to Gaylord and was paying a double mortgage. During these hard times, Shirley became familiar with LuAnn Vanderwerf. Shirley kept RNDC updated on the status of her finances, and LuAnn worked with her to reduce and defer payments to keep enough cash flow to succeed in the slow economy. LuAnn says that she developed a deep respect for Shirley because of her openness during the process. Shirley was happy that she could work so closely with the RNDC and keep her restaurant open during such a difficult time.
Today Shirley and David are proud to be the successful owners of Prairie House, whose doors have been open for 11 years. They have 25 employees, offer a full menu, run a catering service and feed 125 seniors a day through their Meals on Wheels delivery service. They are thankful for the support of the local community.
“Shirley’s done a nice job here. Prairie House is a real asset for our town because it is a consistent place for people to come. You always know you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
– Richard Hebeisen, a regular at Prairie House for many years.