2009-06-13 / Top News

Burgers on the Grill Again, as New Owners Reopen Chuckwagon

Reurink and Keith Take Over for Hart
By Kerri Jo Molitor

Sharon Reurink and Don Keith re-opened the Chuckwagon May 18 after their friend and the previous owner, Jessie Hart, closed it last fall. The business has been running smoothly, they report. Sharon Reurink and Don Keith re-opened the Chuckwagon May 18 after their friend and the previous owner, Jessie Hart, closed it last fall. The business has been running smoothly, they report. Jessie Hart hung up her apron at Jessie's Chuckwagon last October, but two friends, Sharon Reurink and Don Keith, have taken over the operation this summer and plan to rename the diner The Chuckwagon.

Sharon Reurink met Ms. Hart at The Omelette Shop, a restaurant in Grand Rapids where they worked in the winters. Ms. Hart worked there after her busy summers running her Mackinac Island restaurant.

Mr. Keith worked at another Grand Rapids restaurant, Sam's Joint.

"He's the best cook I know," Ms. Reurink said. "I couldn't do it without him."

Mr. Keith and Ms. Reurink haven't changed much at the Chuckwagon. The door still reads "Jessie's Chuckwagon" and will for a little while until Ms. Reurink can change it to "Chuckwagon," and the old sign will be donated to one of the Island's fundraising auctions.

"We're going to give it back to the Islanders," Ms. Reurink said.

The owner of the Chuckwagon, Sharon Reurink (left), and the previous owner, Jessie Hart, met while working at The Omelette Shop in Grand Rapids. When Ms. Reurink decided to buy the Chuckwagon from Ms. Hart and reopen it, Ms. Hart came to Mackinac Island to show her the ropes. (Photograph courtesy of Sharon Reurink) The owner of the Chuckwagon, Sharon Reurink (left), and the previous owner, Jessie Hart, met while working at The Omelette Shop in Grand Rapids. When Ms. Reurink decided to buy the Chuckwagon from Ms. Hart and reopen it, Ms. Hart came to Mackinac Island to show her the ropes. (Photograph courtesy of Sharon Reurink) The friends joked that they considered naming the restaurant "The Dinky Diner" because of its size, but knew the local residents would prefer the old name.

The menu won't be changing at the Chuckwagon, partly because Ms. Reurink and Mr. Keith don't want to ruin the tradition of the restaurant, and also because of Mr. Keith's skill as a short-order cook.

"He makes the best burgers," Ms. Reurink said.

Mr. Keith and Ms. Reurink are training a cook, Travis VanTuinen, and Ms. Reurink's daughter and a friend will be waitresses this summer. Chantel Reurink and Kyle Krol are both moving to the Island in early July.

One other member of the staff, Mr. Keith's son, has a special job. Brenden, 7, helps out where needed, mostly flattening boxes in the back.

"He's my little box-stomper," Mr. Keith said.

Mr. Keith and Ms. Reurink said they feel welcomed on Mackinac Island and are glad they decided to reopen the restaurant.

"The Islanders are making us feel at home," Ms. Reurink said. "They're real nice to us."

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