A far-off vision became reality for Harold Youngs when he finished the crossover from Brutke’s Wagon Wheel to the new Garden Valley Grill last month.
Youngs bought the Wagon Wheel from the Brutke family in 2013 and kept it the same, not wanting to immediately alienate the customer base, but listened to what the community wanted and changed the atmosphere when they were ready.
Now, five years later, Youngs is changing the name and everything else about the restaurant and is hoping the change will be more permanent than IHOP’s temporary change to IHOb.
“Wagon Wheel has been in town for 62 years and I felt it was time to make it my own and change basically everything about the place,” Youngs said. “I wanted the customers who knew the Wagon Wheel to still keep coming and roll with us through the years as we decided to change and look at what the community wanted.”
Years of listening and waiting led to a top-to-bottom remodel valued at $16,000 by the Douglas County Building Department. The 4,000-square-foot building was built in 1954 and was last assessed at just under a $500,000, according to county records.
David Cooke is an economist with the Oregon Department of Employment and attributed the perceived bump in renovations to a growing economy, business tax breaks, and a drop in real estate vacancies.
“Part of the theory was businesses would increase their capital expenditures on new equipment and renovation,” Cooke said. “As commercial real estate vacancy drops, there are less available buildings that are vacant to lease or buy so companies are more likely to expand or renovate existing structures.”
Craig Jackson works across the street from the grill. He used to go to the Wagon Wheel and said the grill was “lighter.”
“You can see,” he said. “It’s good food. It’s convenient for us.”
He said he likes it enough to come about once a week.
Along with the physical renovations, Youngs said the menu changed, too.
“We’ve added quite a few new items,” he said. “We’ve removed about half of the old wagon wheel items and went with some newer additions — lobster, seafood, different kinds of fish and fresh-cut meat that’s cut in-house.”
Youngs said the response to the overhaul has been positive, keeping many old customers and finding new ones. He wants to have a grand reopening in August, but has not set a date yet.