EVANSDALE — The Other Place has three main ingredients for the restaurant’s 40-plus years of success — consistent food, community involvement and quality employees.
The Other Place is a Cedar Valley staple, with the first location opening on College Hill in Cedar Falls, then another in Waverly, then Evansdale, before spreading all the way to Overland Park, Kan.
The Evansdale location is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
“A lot of (the success) has to do with the employees we’ve had here and the consistency we’ve had with our product,” said Tim Hackenmiller, owner of the Evansdale O.P.
Being in a small town has also helped keep The Other Place in business, Hackenmiller said. “We’ve had the run of the mill in the town.
“This area of small towns have supported us really well. We get a lot of people in from Waterloo, too.”
The O.P.’s Evansdale general manger Matt Whitehead said generations of loyal customers have helped with the success. “We’re bringing three or four generations that have all grown up in here over the years.”
Whitehead has been working at The Other Place for almost 20 years, starting in 2001 at the University Avenue Other Place in Waterloo. He transferred to Evansdale 15 years ago.
“I fell in love with the OP back then,” Whitehead said. “I thought it was a great product. I liked the family atmosphere of the ownership.”
Most restaurant businesses don’t see a lot of long-term employees, Hackenmiller said.
“People like coming in here because a lot of the employees we’ve had,” Hackenmiller said. “They like the food too.”
He has three employees that have been with him for 30 years or more.
“Which is unusual for the O.P. system,” Hackenmiller said. “They’re local people.”
The Other Place doesn’t cut back on quality to save money, Whitehead said. “We’re still putting the same amount of product on we did 40 years ago.”
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They have stuck with the same quality so customers still get the “same bang for you’re buck,” Whitehead said.
Throughout the Cedar Valley, The Other Place has had staying power through several recessions that saw larger businesses close across the country.
Hackenmiller was fortunate to get into the business in 1979 with only marginal prior restaurant experience.
“I was a waiter at the same building where our store on University Avenue is,” Hackenmiller said. “It used to be called the Boar’s Head, a steak place.”
He started working at The Other Place in Evansdale in 1979, and bought the location around 1993, Hackenmiller said.
Evansdale’s Other Place, known as The Other Place III, will host a series of giveaways in July to mark 40 years in business.
“We were the last ones to put a number on it,” Hackenmiller said. “There are more stores going up, still.”
There are 11 O.P.s throughout the Midwest.
“These people have really supported us,” Hackenmiller said.
Throughout the floods of 2008, The Other Place was one of the few restaurants open and available for people in Evansdale while they were cleaning up.
“They is a very loyal customer base,” Whitehead said. “Each store does our part to help the schools and the local (communities) ... and try to give back as much as we can.”
Hackenmiller and Whitehead hope to see The Other Place celebrate its 80th anniversary.
“We’ve got a good family here.” Hackenmiller said.