Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners will hold Holiday Open House Dec. 15
A local favorite restaurant will soon have new owners who plan to expand on the diner’s long history in Stevens Point and strengthen it as a community-oriented business.
Stevens Point residents Andy Pech, along with his wife, Samantha, are in the process of buying Al’s Diner on the corner of Jefferson Street and Texas Avenue from local celebrity, Gayle Guzman, who owned and operated the diner for more than 23 years.
The Peches said the establishment’s rich history was key to their decision to purchase the business and they plan to keep it a local fixture as a business mindful of its current customer base, but with a new name and some plans to grow.
The new name will be Watchman’s Gone and feature an expanded menu and possibly extended hours and services. Al’s Diner’s last day of operation is planned to be Friday, Dec. 23.
“It’s going to remain entirely a restaurant, maybe shifting slightly from diner to café-ish because we want to offer dinner,” said Pech.
“It’s not going to be an expensive place. We’re looking at making it a community-type restaurant, we see our clientele being that community.
“We have young kids, also. One of the reasons we’re interested in buying a restaurant is because our son has autism, and our plan is to set him up in the apartment above the restaurant eventually. Then he’d be able to work at the restaurant. So, we really are looking at having a family restaurant,” Pech said.
“One of the things we’re interested in – and we love Al’s Diner – but we’re looking into refreshing that menu a bit, but continuing to serve (the current) clientele also, staying in the same price range,” he said.
The Peches were at the Stevens Point Public Protection Committee Monday, Dec. 12, to request a beer/wine license – which the committee recommended approval of – to be able to serve beer and wine with their food.
Although they haven’t finalized the Watchman’s Gone yet, but the Peches would like to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – depending on how staffing works out – and wouldn’t be open any later than 10 p.m.
“It’s never going to be one of those late-night hangout kind of thing,” Pech said.
Mary Kneebone, District 7, asked the Peches if they will continue to be as involved with the Green Circle Trail as Guzman was with Al’s Diner.
“We have agreed to remain the ‘Green Circle Trail headquarters.’ Gayle has told me I’m not allowed to take the Green Circle Trail sign down,” Pech said, jovially.
Those kinds of community connections are what they want to build on, he said.
“We really want to cater to that location. I’ve driven by there for 30 years, and I’ve always thought that it would be a really cool place to appeal to the park and the Green Circle,” he said.
An idea he and Samantha had would be to possibly offer picnic lunches people could take to the park or offer ice cream to the children who play there.
“We see (the restaurant) as working more in using that neighborhood more,” he said. “Again, I love the place, and we love Gayle. She’s had a really amazing run there – 23 years. We don’t want to do anything to ruin that, we’re just thinking about making it a little more vibrant and community-friendly,” he said.
“Al’s Diner is an iconic staple of Stevens Point,” said Mayor Mike Wiza. “While Gayle has regulars, it’s a place where people go to meet and not only eat but also socialize. The Green Circle was started there. I look forward to the new owners, I think they have some unique ideas and wish them the very best.
“I like the fact they’re going to try to locally source things. I like the fact they’re going to tie in with the park and the Green Circle Trail and I look forward to sampling all of the wares on the menu,” Wiza said.