When Mike DeLeon and Nancy Blair-DeLeon moved to Fayette, Missouri, from New Jersey, in 2012, they didn't know anyone.
They had owned a second home in Fayette for a while, and after their daughter went to college, they decided to make a change. Nancy was fortunate to be able to bring her job at an electrical engineering publisher with her, but Mike, who worked in corporate food management, had to find something new. He really enjoyed working at a nearby bar, but when it closed after a few months, Nancy had an idea: Why not buy it?
So that's what they did. Renamed Miknan's Main Street Pub – a combination of Mike and Nancy – the new pub was designed to be an extension of the hospitality one might feel in Nancy's own home.
The restaurant serves sandwiches, burgers, appetizers and desserts, and everything at Miknan's is made from scratch: patties are hand-formed, fried food is hand-breaded, everything fresh. A few months ago, they calculated that Miknan's has served more than 54,000 burgers since opening in 2012.
"We [even] use cloth napkins," Nancy explains, "because even though it is a bar, in my home, we use cloth napkins. So that was important to me, that it be an extension of my home and my family."
Nancy thinks of her mother in particular, who passed away a few years ago of cancer. Before she died, she told Nancy that she saw her and Mike moving out to Missouri full time and being successful in some business related to food. "I smell food; I don't know what it is," she told her daughter.
"She knew it," Nancy says. "Somewhere in that woman's mind, she knew that we would own this successful business in the middle of Missouri."
Nancy knew she wanted to retire by age 55, so they actually put Miknan's up for sale three years ago, knowing that it wouldn't sell right away in Fayette, a town of less than 3,000, northwest of Columbia.
About a year ago, they sold it to Leremie and Beth Schaffer, who have been working with the DeLeons since then to learn every recipe and get the business down pat. Their son, who is in eighth grade, will stay on with the Schaffers as a prep cook, and Mike plans to help out on weekends for a while, since he served as the primary cook.
Nancy says they couldn't have found a better person to sell Miknan's to; he plans to keep the same name, and show customers the same hospitality Miknan's has become known for in Fayette.
When Nancy announced the sale a few weeks ago on Facebook, she received an outpouring of support from fans, customers, friends and family. People commented that they had met their significant others there, or that they drive from Columbia just for the fish sandwich and promise to continue patronage under the new ownership.
Nancy tears up when she tries to explain just how much all this means to her.
"Two people from New Jersey – we didn’t know a soul, we took a chance on a business where we didn't know anybody, and the result has been immeasurable," she says. "The friendships, great conversations, extraordinary people – it's been tiring, exhausting at times, but it's been the best decision of my lifetime."
Miknan's Main Street Pub, 107 N Main St., Fayette, Missouri, 660.248.9911, facebook.com/miknans