It took almost eight months, and a lot of perseverance, but the Blue Moon restaurant is back in the business of filling a community void in Hamburg and feeding the appetite of a loyal customer base.
Vicki Sjulin, co-owner of the Blue Moon with her husband of 46 years, Eric, took time to visit with the Hamburg Reporter about the history of the venerable Hamburg business and its perilous journey from flood inundation to a new life once again.
The journey of the Blue Moon began when Vicki’s parents, Wilma and J.R., opened the business back in 1972.
Vicki began working for her parents at the restaurant from the start. Travels took Vicki’s parents away from Hamburg as they followed Vicki’s brother and sister, who were in the service.
Vicki and Eric took up the challenge of pushing forward with the business, but their efforts were not supposed to last. They had the idea of selling it within a few years. Of course, that never happened.
And the Blue Moon became a staple of community dining options. As the years went by, other restaurants came and went but the Blue Moon stood strong. Before the flood, it was operating as Hamburg’s only option for a sit-down dining experience.
On March 17, the Sjulins left their building due to the flood.
The Blue Moon had a restaurant on the lower level and an area it rented for receptions and other functions on an upper level. Everything that could be moved was taken to the upper level in the hopes that the flood water wouldn’t reach it.
Unfortunately, there ended up being three feet of water in the upper level. The resulting damage represented a total loss for the business.
“It’s like 47 years washed out of your life,” she said. “We started all over again—everything.”
And it could have been the end of the Blue Moon.
Vicki said there were thoughts of permanent closure. But the Sjulins also felt a duty to the community and to the customers that had been so loyal for so many years.
“It’s a staple,” Vicki said of the Blue Moon. “It wouldn’t be a complete town without a gathering place.”
That draw got the recovery going and the business re-opened on Nov. 14.
It wasn’t without all hands and all effort. Wilma and JR, ages 86 and 88, have been there helping. They saw the need and are still able to pitch in. Vicki said the Blue Moon has always been a “family event.”
In the re-opened space, the restaurant now occupies what was the reception/event area. The lower level has yet to be developed, but Vicki said she hopes to make the lower space function as the upper space had prior to the flood. And she said she would like to add a small kitchen that people would be able to use for their events.
Back in the restaurant, it has been a daily grind. Each day, Vicki said, the restaurant faces new challenges. Possibly the biggest challenge has been the point of sale system that creates customer bills. The system contains all of the menu items and prices. Vicki said she has been on the phone with technical support almost daily to make sure the system is running well so that wait times for checks are shorter.
Customers understand and are just glad to have the Blue Moon back in their lives.
For a big chunk of the last eight months, there were no dining options at all in Hamburg. Casey’s came back and the town then desired a sit-down restaurant. They have it. And they understand that the process has been and continues to be less than ideal.
“Our local people understand where we are at and they are very patient with us,” Vicki said.
Looking into the future, Vicki said that the business looks forward to building the lower level and hopes to hear positive news about the new levee Hamburg is building. The levee construction funds have been gathered and, once the conditions at the site cooperate, the levee build will begin.
That’s important since the flood threat doesn’t seem to be one that’s going away anytime soon. The forecast for next year indicates that flooding is likely. With the threat known, however, the residents of the town and the rural area will have a chance to fight a spring flood in 2020. That luxury wasn’t afforded them before the March flood, but the people rallied to push more dirt on the west ditch levee prior to the second flood event of 2019. And water did not re-enter the town.
Viciki said that’s a testimony to resolve. “We’ve got determined people,” she said.