How-Dea says ‘howdy’ with a hot griddle and a wrench
Sherry Mulloy and Pat Arndt could write books from the stories they’ve heard in their 30 years of helping run How-Dea Service Center in Belgium.
“Like when the restaurant (HoBo’s Korner Kitchen) almost became a drive through because a truck hit the side of it,” Mulloy said. “Or the time when a trucker forgot to set his brakes and his semi almost wound up on I-43.”
Stories like that are part of life at HoBo’s and the adjoining service center and mini mart, a family-run, mom-and-pop-type business that has thrived since 1986 catering to over-the-road truckers and local folks looking for a good breakfast.
One of the restaurant’s biggest draws is its weekend buffet, featuring mustreipen the first Sunday of every month, except during the summer.
“Mustreipen is a big seller for us, being in a Luxembourg-rich village,” Arndt said. “People like to come in for a good, filling breakfast, whether they’re from nearby or hundreds of miles away.”
The restaurant’s best seller is its three-egg omelet, Arndt said, which comes with toast, biscuits, hashbrowns or American fries, all for less than $8.
“We get a lot of people who come in after church or just have a little more time on the weekends to stop in,” Arndt said.
The restaurant also serves pizzas, sandwiches, broasted chicken and, of course, a Friday night fish fry.
“We wouldn’t be a Wisconsin restaurant without one,” Arndt said. “That’s another huge draw for us.”
A hearty meal and a chance to relax after a long day on the road wasn’t the original draw for the service center, though.
The company started when brothers-in-law Howard Arndt — Pat and Sherry’s father — and Dean Yoho founded Belgium Trucking in 1953 to haul canned goods for Krier Preserving Co.
The success of the business led them to open How-Dea Service Center in 1967 at the corner of highways D and 57 between Fredonia and Random Lake.
The center repaired trucks and sold gas, Arndt said.
With the development of I-43 in the 1970s, Arndt and Yoho decided to move closer to the freeway and purchased a former John Deere implement dealer on the east side of highways LL and D, in 1986.
The truck stop and restaurant opened in 1987, Arndt said.
A few years later, the company purchased a tavern across the street, which was eventually demolished and How-Dea Mini Mart was built.
Mulloy and John Arndt, who works in the service center, have been working for How-Dea since 1980, while Pat started a few years after the company moved into the village.
“I graduated high school in 1987, went to college, and after a year my dad asked if I wanted to come work for him,” Arndt said. “I told him no. Eventually I changed my mind and I’ve been here since.”
Like the rest of the family, Arndt has several responsibilities in the company, but does a lot of the cooking at HoBo’s.
The restaurant’s name is a combination of Howard and wife Margaret’s nickname, “Boots.”
Margaret died in 2006 and while Howard doesn’t run the every day operations anymore, he’s still involved with the company, Arndt said.
“He goes over to the truck stop just about every day and has break time with the mechanics,” he said. “This is our business and our livelihood. Some of this we do for our dad.”
The restaurant has a solid mix of truckers who need a tasty meal and hot shower while traveling between Chicago and Green Bay and its local regulars, Arndt said.
“We get a group of former Bolens Corp. employees who come in every Monday morning for breakfast,” he said. “The
Belgium Lions Club meets here twice a month. The stories you hear from everyone are just off the wall sometimes.”
Mulloy agreed, saying the loyal customer base is one of the reasons she comes to work every morning.
“I love our customers,” she said. “We have a terrific staff. Some of them have been here since we moved.”
It’s a family operation in every sense of the word.
The company has about 80 employees, Mulloy said, and all three of her children have worked for her at some point.
Arndt’s daughter helps waitress when she can and his two sons have worked at the Mini Mart.
His wife Jennifer also works at the restaurant.
“It can be tough to get outside employees,” Arndt said. “We can’t go east to hire and there are a lot of things to do to the south (in Port Washington and Grafton). It’s a hard draw sometimes.”
There have been a lot of changes over the years, Arndt said, like the closing of St. Mary’s Lake Church, which hurt business on the weekends.
Still, with the decline of truck stops, and, at times, a lack of other dining options, How-Dea is a destination of sorts for truckers and regulars alike.
“We get a lot of customers on Green Bay Packer game days, people using the campgrounds at Harrington and I’ve started noticing more cars in the parking lot at the hotel (Rodeway Inn) across the street, which is a good thing,” Arndt said. “The location near the freeway is certainly a plus.”
Mulloy admits the business can be trying at times, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Our customer base is what we really care about,” she said.
Image information: ALMOST 30 years ago, Howard Arndt (second from left) opened HoBo’s Korner Kitchen at 100 Main St. in the Village of Belgium. The restaurant is now run by his son Pat (middle), while daughter Sherry Mulloy runs the mini mart across the street and son John works as a mechanic in the service center. Photo by Sam Arendt