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Keeping the ‘Traditions’ alive

Murphy opens new restaurant at Twin Lakes

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Mike Murphy, owner of Traditions, poses in front of the renvisioned restaurant at Twin Lakes in Rockwell City. In 2019, Murphy purchased the property, formerly known as Twin Lakes Grocery amd Grill, and built a new structure to house the business. It opened in May.

TWIN LAKES — Mike Murphy has spent the majority of his summers out at Twin Lakes, either on a boat or enjoying the view of the water.

“I grew up here,” said Murphy, a Fort Dodge Senior High graduate. “My folks bought a place out here in 1966. Spent every summer here. My dad took a liking to the lake and all the people around it. He was a boat guy. Loved the water.”

And over the course of about 40 years, Murphy has made lifelong friends and created lasting memories. He and many others refer to this way of life as a tradition.

So when Murphy built a new restaurant and mini store at Twin Lakes in Rockwell City, the name that stuck was Traditions.

“We put it out there (name suggestions),” Murphy said. “One of my friends who grew on the lake said our families have had all these years together up here, let’s name it Traditions and several other people agreed.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Mike Murphy, owner of Traditions, shows off one of the variety of thin crusts available at the lakeside restaurant at Twin Lakes in Rockwell City.

Traditions at the little store, 6903 Twin Lakes Road, opened on May 15 with carryout. Soon after the restaurant opened at 50% capacity due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was probably a godsend for us,” Murphy said. “Everyone was excited to see the place, so for us to go at 50 percent helped us get the staff up to speed and get all systems in place. If we would have opened on a Friday night in May, there would have been cars down the street and it would have been a nightmare.”

Murphy took ownership of the property, Twin Lakes Grocery and Grill, in April of 2019. The previous owners were Clint and Linda Thompson. It has been a grocery store and restaurant since the 1960s.

Over the winter, the structure was completely torn down and a new structure built.

Murphy, a former college basketball player at Wartburg, also bought a house next door that he rents out to employees.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Fish tacos are on the menu at Traditions restaurant at Twin Lakes. The tacos, along with burgers, wraps and pizzas offer customers a variety of choices.

The restaurant has two levels, which feature glass overhead doors. There’s an indoor/outdoor bar with custom concrete countertops.

Woodruff Construction, of Fort Dodge, was the general contractor.

“Their design team really put this all together,” Murphy said.

The building is about 2,500 square feet up and down, according to Murphy. It can seat between 70 and 80.

The walls of the restaurant are covered with photos both old and new of times at the lakes.

“There’s pictures up there from three years ago and pictures from 30 years ago,” he said.

The menu has some carryover from the last restaurant and some items that are brand new.

“We tracked what items people were ordering and what they weren’t,” Murphy said. “It’s a typical sports bar menu situation with pizza, burgers, salads and wings. We didn’t have wraps or wings before.”

Murphy said he buys the products locally.

“We said we wanted kind of the higher end of the menu in terms of the quality of their (vendors) food and people have really noticed that I think,” Murphy said.

The thin crust style pizza offered at Traditions is Murphy’s personal favorite.

“We spent a lot of time, too, on the wings to get meatier kind of wings,” Murphy said.

Many of the items on the menu are reasonably priced when compared with other restaurants in the area.

“When I first bought the restaurant, all I asked people to

do, I said the prices would be reasonable,” Murphy said. “I am running it to support the lake and would appreciate if everyone would support it and people have gone over the top.”

Trying to make sure customers get their order in a timley manner, especially in terms of carry-out orders has been one of the bigger challenges to this point.

“Biggest challenge is it’s so busy with carry-out, sometimes the food takes a while,” Murphy said. “I want them served, I want stuff to get out. We have so much carry-out and so much ice cream etc., but everyone said, ‘Hey we get that. We aren’t in a hurry. But we have really taken a look at that.”

As a result, Murphy said on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the carry-out menu is pizzas only.

“We can blow out 60 pizzas an hour,” he said.

The ice cream is especially popular and has been for many years, Murphy said.

“That’s been a staple of this store,” he said. “We kept the same distributor flavors. It’s a place someone can jump off the boat and grab Tornadoes, which are like Blizzards (Dairy Queen), or regular cups of ice cream.

“I have four (adult) daughters and that was their deal, jump out of the water, wrap a towel on and get some ice cream. They get back here a few times a summer and all really like the lake.”

The restaurant also operates as a small convenience store.

“We have some items,” Murphy said, “We have downsized that. We have five cooler doors down there. We sell bread, eggs and milk. A few coffee products, pop, water and beer.”

A gas dock is on the lake in back of the restaurant.

At 53, it’s Murphy’s first go in the restaurant business.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.

Murphy has lived in Dallas, Texas; Minneapolis and now lives in Johnston. He is one of the founders of a construction business called Power House, headquartered in Dallas.

Traditions employs between 25 and 30 people at any given time.

One of Murphy’s visions for Traditions is that it be a place people can come and meet new people.

“It’s big enough so people can interact from table to table,” Murphy said. “You can bounce from table to table and talk to people. We have our group of 10 people here, let’s go talk to the other group of 10. All the sudden everybody knows everybody.”

Murphy said he plans to stay open until Nov. 1. The restaurant will then reopen sometime in March 2021.

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