The Switchback Grill underwent an ownership change in September and it’s a family affair.
Mindy Tippetts took over ownership of the popular Lovell restaurant, now renamed the Burger Barn. It’s an unexpected turn for the Tippetts family; one they didn’t forsee undertaking until just recently.
“We used to joke when we were younger, because she would cook all the time that we should just open up a restaurant,” Tippetts’ daughter, Hailee Nielson said. “We never thought that would actually happen. It was just an ongoing joke, but we said it too much.”
Tippetts has brought her whole family to help in the running of the restaurant. That includes her teenage daughters Hailee and Angel Nielson, her sons Jordan and Wyatt Nielson, as well as T.J. and Jayden Tippetts. Brooklyn and Bostyn Tippetts make appearances within the Burger Barn too, but being ages 1 and 7 respectively, they’re usually just there to charm the customers, Hailee said.
It’s largely the daughters who man the shop, but the sons help out when they can, according to Mindy.
“It’s been good for the girls. Our girls that work here, they just work for tips only,” Tippetts said. “We want them to work hard for their money. They like it. They know they’re earning their own money.”
Two cooks, Donnie Parish and Lenny Fairbanks, are also helping out the family on the grill and fryers.
Mindy said Walt Paugels, the former owner of the Switchback Grill, didn’t share any of his recipes upon transferring the business, so the family has had to recreate his classics with their own style. They’ve had fun with it.
The Juicy Lucy, for example, now comes stuffed with bacon.
“I always come out and ask everyone who orders it if they want bacon in it,” Tippetts said. “They always say yes. Bacon makes everything better, yes?”
Several hamburgers also now come stuffed with cheese.
The family has been tinkering with other offerings, as well.
“We just changed up our chicken recipe and it’s super super good now, really juicy. Just things like that, I feel like we can do a really good job at,” Tippetts said. “We know people come in a say it’s different, but we still want it to be a good difference.
“You can’t just take over a restaurant and have everything stay exactly the same. I’m a little bit younger too we want to flair it up a little bit, but not make it crazy.”
Old classics are also under experimentation.
“Bringing the scoop burger back is under consideration. We have to get the recipe down for the sauce. We’ve had some ideas and some inside secrets, so we’re hoping to be able to bring this back,” Tippetts said. “It’s a hamburger with a special sauce in it – I asked Billie (the creator of the scoop burger) what it was and she can’t remember. I had a lady, though, come in that used to work here back in the day so she gave us some ideas.”
Salads have also been added to the menu, and for those that are health conscious, burgers can now be served in lettuce buns.
The family has also made sure to hand-cut their fries. The special fries, loaded with cheese, jalapenos, tomatoes and the works, have also been a popular offering.
Despite a lifetime of cooking, Tippetts said she’s never owned a restaurant before. Her previous work experiences have been in running daycares.
There have been some learning curves.
“I didn’t expect not being able to keep food in the place. We really had to stock up on a lot of food because it goes fast,” Mindy said. “We just didn’t know how many people would be interested, so we ran out of food at the beginning.”
Sandwich making is also much more complicated when considering profits, Tippetts said.
“You start selling stuff and you’re like ‘whoa, we didn’t make any money on this sandwich because we didn’t take into account that this cost this much and this cost this much’, so things like that caught us by surprise,” Tippetts said. “We’re learning as we go, that’s for sure. It’s definitely a lot to learn.”
A new sign, which will replace the old Switchback Grill sign with one that now declares the building as the Burger Barn is in production, Tippetts said, although it’s unclear still when the sign will arrive.
Hailee said, overall, taking over the local diner has made the family a lot closer.
“I like it, I like being around my family more now than before,” Hailee said. It’s long hours, but it definitely brings us closer. There’s more room for arguing now, but we’re also working together and spending more time with each other than we did before.”
With new ownership comes consistent hours. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, it is open until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and closed on Sundays.
By Ryan Fitzmaurice