Members of the Pusich family and friends and employees of Mike's Place in Douglas packed up more than 60 years of history this weekend after the restaurant closed for good Thursday night.
"Definitely it was time," said Mary Kay Pusich, who took over operations of the restaurant from her parents, Rudy and Mary Pusich, in 1976. "All of the family talked, and the consensus was it's time to close this chapter."
The Kasnick family, which owns the Driftwood and several apartments in town, plans to buy Mike's Place in a sale that will close this week, Rick Kasnick said.
Mike Pusich, a Yugoslav immigrant, opened his first restaurant in Douglas - the Dreamland - in 1914. The federal prohibition of alcohol in 1920 forced Pusich to convert the restaurant into a clothing and grocery store, but he returned to food and spirits in 1933, when prohibition was repealed.
The Dreamland was destroyed in the Douglas fire of 1937, forcing Pusich to open a new restaurant at the property he owned on Second Street in Douglas.
In July of 1937, Pusich opened Mike's Place. The restaurant has been operated by members of the Pusich family ever since, except a year and a half in the 1980s when the business sold to a new owner. That owner couldn't make payments on the property, so the Pusich family bought it back.
Though the Pusich family agrees that the time is right to close the restaurant, many of the establishment's long-time patrons will miss dining there, Mary Kay Pusich said.
"There are people that have grown up and spent most of their lives here and raised their families and have had many occasions here," she said. "It's going to be a big change for all of us in the community."
Peggy Poor, a longtime Douglas resident, remembers eating at Mike's Place as a little girl.
"It's always sad to see a longtime establishment close," Poor said. "But then on the other hand, I'm happy for Rudy and Mary - they're ready to retire."
Mary Kay Pusich's parents, siblings, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews have all helped operate the business at some point in its history, she said.
The restaurant's hours were scaled back several years ago when Pusich took a full-time job with the State of Alaska. The restaurant is closing for good now because the restaurant economy in Juneau has been "a little flat," she said.
The Kasnick family will decide what to do with the Mike's Place building and property once they have officially bought the establishment, Rick Kasnick said.
"We've got a couple of different options that we're looking at," he said.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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