MUNSTER | It took 100 days to create a new Munster landmark along Ridge Road.
The newly rebuilt McDonald’s restaurant at 515 Ridge Road opened at noon on Tuesday, and owner/operator Bob Mazzaro said he’s pleased with the results.
“We’ve been busy ever since we opened the doors,” said Mazzaro, who is also president of the Northwest Indiana McDonald’s Operators.
One of three area McDonald’s owned by Mazzaro, the iconic Munster McDonald’s originally opened in 1971 and was the first in Northwest Indiana to feature a drive-thru, he said. That 3,100-square-foot restaurant served generations of residents from both sides of the state line until the original building was demolished in late June.
To expand his restaurant’s footprint, Mazzaro bought a lot just east of his Ridge Road site and had the former medical office building razed.
The new 5,100-square-foot McDonald’s, which now faces west to east, is the largest currently in the McDonald’s stable, Mazzaro said. He said the investment in this project was “large” but “the right thing to do.”
The contemporary exterior is part of the corporation’s reimaging efforts that began in 2011 and will continue in Northwest area locations in Lake, Porter, Jasper and LaPorte counties.
A two-lane drive-thru creates better traffic flow than before, too, he said, because vehicles no longer stack up on Ridge Road to enter.
Inside, blues and beiges blend with rough stone walls, wood accents and sliding wood shutters. Tom Nelson, owner of The Ark Pet Shop in Merrillville, installed a 200-gallon fresh-water aquarium.
“This is the only one of a few in the entire U.S. with an aquarium, and the only one of its kind in the state of Indiana,” Nelson said.
Mazzaro said he had electric outlets placed at each booth for customers to use with their computer devices and cellphones.
Yvette Noe, a 40-year employee of the Munster McDonald’s, saw the changes for the first time Thursday.
“This is wonderful,” said Noe of Munster, a Jill-of-all-trades who helps at the counter and does janitorial chores. “I took three months off while the restaurant was being built. I’m ready to come back to work tomorrow.”
Also seeing the new McDonald’s for the first time Thursday were Roger and Kerrie DeVries, of Dyer.
“We used to live two houses down from here 11 years ago. We’ve been coming here for 20 years,” said Kerrie DeVries. “It’s beautiful and very much needed for this area.”