McDonald’s reopens with ‘bright’ new look
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · December 21, 2012

The Golden Arches have been uncovered.
The parking lot is full.

“Now hiring” banners catch the eye along Parkside Drive.

And at 5 a.m. Dec. 13, the newly rebuilt McDonald’s restaurant opened after three months and four days with a bright, more modern look inside and out, with Herbert Hoover images throughout the dining area and entrances.

At 9 a.m., General Manager Brittany Kendall cut a red ribbon at a grand opening ceremony.

“It’s beautiful,” Deanna Koburn of West Branch said. “It’s bright and cheery. I like it!”

West Branch Mayor Don Kessler, who frequented the restaurant for coffee with friends, was sitting among them again in a corner table that had half booth seats, half chairs.

“I like it,” he said. “I really do. It’s bright. And the best part about it is that (owner Kevin O’Brien) brought all the help back. He looked out for the employees.”

The mayor said he was also glad to see images of the West Branch native all around.

“(O’Brien) kept Hoover in it,” Kessler said. “He didn’t get away from West Branch.”

The interior theme is primarily black and white with splashes of pink and orange against larger-than-life, black-and-white photographs of the 31st president and even some of wife Lou Henry. The photographs include quotes by Hoover in large letters. A large wall separates most of the dining area from the counter. The wall has 15 large, round holes — three rows of five — cut into it, some of which are filled with transparent pink or orange glass, some clear glass screened with scenes from Hoover’s presidency. Some of the holes are open.

The dining area includes several large-screen televisions, small tables and one long, white table surrounded by pink or orange cushioned stools.

The floor is white-and-grey checkerboard.

While ordering, customers can select from five large TVs set side to side high on the wall behind the cashiers. A separate, smaller TV flashes order numbers when food is ready. The menu screens change depending on the time of day.

Ronald McDonald met diners, chatted with staff, mugged for pictures with children and adults, signed photographs of himself and joked with star-struck toddlers while handing out goodie bags. The number of visitors was so large many had to park next door at Kum & Go.

“I’m happy we’re back open,” O’Brien said to the crowd. “Thank you for your loyalty.”

He also thanked his staff and made a plug for filling some full-time and part-time positions.

“I think we’re going to be busier than ever,” he said.

O’Brien and staff presented three $500 donations, one each to the West Branch Fire Department, West Branch Public Library and Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum. Public Library Director Nick Shimmin and Hoover Library Director Thomas Schwartz accepted two of the checks. Fire Chief Kevin Stoolman had to leave for a medical call, so the mayor accepted on behalf of the WBFD. The donations garnered applause from the dining crowd.

“I’m lovin’ it!” Mayor Kessler said, quoting the fast-food chain’s slogan.

O’Brien said rebuilding at the 15 1/2-year location went “very smooth.” And he was pleased with the turnout for the grand opening.

He said the only glitch was the Web feed from the McDonald’s corporation to the digital menu boards, but that “resolved itself.”

West Branch resident Dorothy Bower said the interior “looks much better” than the artist’s rendering that appeared in the newspaper back in September when the previous building closed.

Bower’s friend, Dutch Hoeme, also of West Branch, said he noticed the room temperature was more comfortable than before.

Bower agreed.

“It used to be too cold,” she said. “You would need sweaters and jackets.”

O’Brien credited that to the new heating and cooling system.

“It’s much more energy-efficient,” he said. “The whole design is much better.”

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