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Ground Round set to open in September

A sign is up outside Farmington's new Ground Round, but there is still renovation work to do inside to transform the former Blondies restaurant.

When Kirk Zeaman and David Hartnett bought Farmington's Dunn Bros. coffee shop three years ago they took over a struggling business and built it into a thriving operation.

Now, they hope to repeat the process on the other end of the strip mall where their current business is located.

Zeaman and Hartnett are nearing the end of a process to turn the space once occupied by Blondie's restaurant into a Ground Round. They hope to open in early to mid September.

Zeaman and Hartnett bought Dunn Bros. around the same time Blondies opened its doors. They had worked closely with the restaurant's owners. So it was difficult to watch their neighbor close, Zeaman said. The pair decided pretty quickly they wanted to bring a family restaurant back to the space. Once they'd made that decision, it didn't take long to settle on Ground Round.

The restaurant chain used to be a common sight around the Twin Cities. Families would eat their meals with side helpings of peanuts, the shells of which usually ended up on the floor. But the restaurants faded from view several years ago.

Now they're making a comeback, and Zeaman and Hartnett want to be a part of it.

"I kind of grew up with the Ground Round," said Zeaman, who plans to handle operations at the new restaurant while Hartnett continues to manage the Dunn Bros.

Zeaman has always handled the books for the coffee shop, and he figures it will be easier now that he spends his days at the other end of a strip mall rather than elsewhere in the Twin Cities.

Getting from their initial decision to opening day has been a long process, though. There was financing to work out, and franchise details to study. Zeaman also had a full time job to keep him busy, though he has since quit that to focus on the restaurant.

Taking over the Ground Round and hiring new employees has been a nice change of pace from his old job, he said, where he spent much of his time closing offices.

Now, it's just a matter of getting renovation work done, getting a staff hired and getting everyone trained.

Zeaman left Monday for 10 days of training at a Ground Round in Toma, Wis. He and three other managers will each go through 40 days total of on-the-job training in the working restaurant. Zeaman is midway through his time and has already worked most of the stations in the kitchen. He will also wait tables and step into the manager's office before he is done.

Zeaman and Hartnett hope to hire 100 people altogether.

Work is also under way now to renovate the restaurant's interior. The plan is to split the space in two, with a restaurant side where families can sit and talk while they eat and a bar side that will feature several televisions.

As opening day draws closer, Zeaman is eager to get the doors open and start serving food.

"I think for Farmington I'm really excited because one we're trying to do the shop Farmington and stay in Farmington. All of the folks that are driving out of Farmington for dinner now, we're hoping to kind of bring them back."

He's counting on the restaurant to be a success.

"I've done the all-in bet at this point," he said. "I've got my fingers crossed. If it doesn't work out, all I've got left is two dogs, a cooler and a bicycle."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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