Iowa man keeps Muscatine tradition alive with Tee’s business
MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — In a long, cold, snowy winter, a bright spot lit up Park Avenue on President’s Day in the early evening. Neon lights lit up the tiny red and white building that was packed with customers.
And with good reason. Despite the cold, Tee’s Ice Cream and Burgers was greeted warmly that evening. And it wasn’t all high school kids that came there that night. For Tee’s, a Muscatine tradition, as owner Steve Meyer calls it, appeals to a wide range of ages.
It’s only the second year of ownership for Meyer, who credits the previous owners, Lynda and Robert McAtee, with building up the business. It’s done well as both a Dairy Queen and Grandpa’s, too.
His goals are simple. “My whole goal is to not screw it up,” Meyer said. “Lynda did a great job of building it up. Kinda made it into what it is.”
Hours increase in the summertime, as Tee’s stays open until 10 p.m., but Meyer notes the place sells a lot of food, especially now.
“New-age comfort food,” is what he calls it.
It’s mostly hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, cheese balls, pork tenderloins and chicken sandwiches besides Tee’s version of DQ’s Blizzard, called a Snowstorm, ice cream and shakes.
“We don’t do anything fancy,” he said. “We just do basic food, and we do it well.”
Meyer mainly wants to keep things running smoothly. He’s only added some cash registers and a fountain pop machine.
Also the owner of the Maid-Rite in Muscatine and the Junction Grill and Bar in Wilton, Meyer had briefly considered buying Tee’s in the past. When it was for sale the last time, however, Realtors Dave and Steve Armstrong, friends of his, convinced him it was worth a closer look.
Meyer had always thought he didn’t want an ice cream shop. But he decided Tee’s was already a winner, so opted to buy it for $329,000, the Muscatine Journal reported.
So far, no regrets, even in weeks when he works 100 hours between his three businesses.
“Some weeks I put in 100 hours; other weeks 25,” he said. “You got to keep yourself in remembrance of that sometimes.”
Besides, he enjoys the challenge of owning three businesses. “I am a glutton for punishment,” he said, noting it’s still fun. “To me, there’s constant change. I kind of like chaos a little bit. You have five minutes to make a customer happy.
“I like pressure. There’s not much more pressure than the restaurant world. You get a very limited amount of time to keep people happy.”
The fact that Tee’s seems to have its own longtime following does not hurt either.
On opening day they line up at the door, he said. “When we do Facebook posts, people go nuts for it. Last year I announced I was taking it over, I think I had 90,000 people that saw the post,” he said.
“It was pretty crazy. This year was almost just as crazy.”
He has opted not to change the name for obvious reasons. “I thought about it when I took it over,” he explained. “But I didn’t want to change anything. They had done a good job building it up.
“When you make one little change sometimes, it can just change the public’s idea of what it’s about. My whole goal was to change as little as possible.”
Tee’s employs three to five people full-time and about 22 if you count all the part-timers.
A longtime employee is Roxanne DeKeyrel, who worked with the McAtees for a long time. “Lynda and Bob did a great job,” she said. “And Steve is keeping things going.”
Tee’s continues to be a bright spot along Park Avenue for fun from President’s Day in February through November, then takes a three-month break.
As for the future for Tee’s, Meyer’s plans are as follows: “Keep chugging along and doing the same old thing.”
Information from: Muscatine Journal, http://www.muscatinejournal.com