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Max and Erma’s Employee Says Location Killed Aberdeen Eatery

Chris Pagel is mostly a video gamer who posts his digital exploits to YouTube. But last month, he posted this lengthy meditation on why Max & Erma’s, his employer for six years and two months, closed:

In Pagel’s read, his hometown lacks the population to support that one more burger joint. He also says the northwest location lacks the traffic that the eateries on the Walmart side of town get. He laments that his own efforts to promote the eatery on his YouTube channel didn’t reach more people and help keep the place open. (Ah, maybe should’ve gotten the boss to advertise on Dakota Free Press!)

Pagel also claims that local car salesman Toby Doeden came into Max and Erma’s the week after the closure was announced, told them he had plans for reviving the restaurant, then backed out without any explanation. (I understand the vent, but I also recognize that entrepreneurs can talk all they want about possible plans without creating any moral obligations to interested workers or partners until he puts the deal in writing.)

Pagel responds to co-owner Mark McNeary’s claim that the restaurant struggled because it had trouble keeping workers. Pagel suggested that his own long tenure at Max and Erma’s speaks to the contrary. However, Pagel also acknowledges that the problem may have been just the opposite, that Max and Erma’s kept some bad workers too long instead of replacing them with better workers.

And with that out of the way, back to gaming! Here’s Pagel’s latest truck-driving-gaming video:


  1. South DaCola 2019-05-01 09:51

    23 minutes I will never get back . . .

    Heard they had good soup.

  2. Scott 2019-05-01 19:09

    As the community loses more retailer, more eating places like Max & Erma’s will close. Less retail means less traffic coming to the community and thus less opportunities for eateries to get people to come inside their doors. Even for city residents, if you have less places to shop you are just not away from home as much and thus less likely to be eating out.

    This phenomenon has been going on for decades and started with the small towns and just keeps expanding to bigger town. Better transportation was the end to many small towns. Now the web is expanding upon better transportation and killing retail in communities of all sizes.

  3. South DaCola 2019-05-02 09:40

    In Sioux Falls restaurants close weekly. With the farm economy in the tank, you will see a lot of these kind of businesses close. But hey we are building a 2nd location for the Banquet! Progress folks! South Dakota style.

  4. jerry 2019-05-02 14:09

    Well, thanks to the republican tax cuts, workers got an extra $6.21 per week. You would’ve thought they would spend that bucket of cash on a burger. Workers have been getting screwed for 40 years and they think it’s their fault. Now there is not enough to purchase enough ground beef for spaghetti. Well played republicans, well played.

  5. Wade Brandis 2019-05-04 20:03

    The closest businesses to the former Max & Erma’s were the Super 8 motel next door, and the Village Bowl across the street. I once stayed in that Super 8, and it was very nice. I was in town with family for a bowling tournament at the nearby Village Bowl, and we just had food there or at another restaurant in town somewhere. I was aware of Max & Erma’s thanks to their building being highly visible next door and seeing their ads in those in-room motel directories if I’m not mistaken.

    That Super 8 is rather small, and can’t hold very many people looking for an overnight stay. The Village Bowl, like many bowling centers, is starting to look old and dated and needs some kind of remodeling job. There is also a golf course next to the bowling alley. As for shopping, it’s practically non-existent in that part of town, unless you count all the car dealerships as shopping. There is a much larger hotel right across the divided highway, the Ramkota. But, they have an on-site Minerva’s restaurant and bar, which could take potential customers away unless they decided to venture outside the Ramkota for more options.

    Funnily enough, if you look at the Google Street View of the Max & Erma’s lot, looking west from N. 10th Street, you can see an old vacant Arby’s in the Sept. 2008 photos. Maybe the Arby’s also closed down because of lack of traffic and customers?

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-04 22:23

    Could be, Wade. The Shopko out that way is closing, although that’s corporate’s fault, I believe, not any unique Aberdeen factor. But that closing will give people one less excuse to be in that part of town. There’s a big housing development that sits isolated from town west of there, accessible only by 8th Ave NW and by Highway 212. It’s a nice area, adjacent another golf course, but just a pain to get to from anywhere else in town and not pedestrian friendly for getting to and from.

    Hmm… two golf courses, plus right on the way to Wylie Park—you’d think there’d be more recreation traffic up there.

    The Super 8 up there has closed, leaving the Ramkota the only place to stay in that corner of town. I would think a burger place close to Minerva’s would be great, because there must be a lot of travelers like me who get to a hotel, then don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for the hotel restaurant meal and just want a burger. I would think a fast-food option would survive better up there as an alternative… but the closed Arby’s apparently proves me wrong.

    Maybe restaurant options need to move north from the Ramkota and the bowling alley, taking advantage of the opportunity to attract more of the Wylie crowd. Come up, camp, walk or bike to the restaurant… but then that doesn’t seem to be driving lots of traffic to the bowling alley.

    But then I’m not the guy to design a town. I have my idosyncratic preferences for walkability and bikability. I have this crazy idea that people are actually going to go outside under their own power and enjoy the place, not just drive around and buy more stuff.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-04 22:23

    Restaurants close all the time; do new ones pop up at an equal replacement rate?

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