• Last modified 565 days ago (Jan. 16, 2020)


MEMORIES IN FOCUS: From barely makin' it to Bearly Makin' It years ago


Canned goods and an impressive old-style coffeemaker line the walls behind the lunch counter of McMillan’s Restaurant, out of four often brief-lived eating establishments in Marion in 1912. Serving food from the building that now houses Bearly Makin' It Antiques, McMillan's charged the modern equivalent of $6.41 for a meal and lasted less than six years.

Marion’s restaurants seem to change faster than daily specials at a blue-plate diner.

Among the first to start a restaurant in an old railway car, like the car that later was used for the fabled Owl Car Café, was restaurateur Vince McMillan.

In 1909, McMillan opened a lunchroom in a rail car along 3rd St. at the present location of Marion National Bank’s drive-up window.

Neither he nor the rail car lasted long, however. He quickly moved his restaurant to the eastern storefront, now home to Marion’s American Legion post, of the Wheeler Building, which at the time was Marion’s hospital.

By 1912, just three years after he opened his rail car, he had moved again, this time to what was called the Winchester Building and today is home to Bearly Makin’ It Antiques.

The building was the third and only surviving member of a of set of four almost identical storefronts that, over history, housed numerous banks and other businesses, including the city’s post office.

The restaurant portion of the building had been Hargess Brothers Meat Market up until shortly before McMillen’s arrival, after another briefly lived restaurant, Conyers’ Café, tried its hand there.

Within 10 years, the storefront was back to being a meat market. It eventually became Beaston Market before becoming home to Bearly Makin’ It.

In 1912, all meals there cost 25 cents, the equivalent in purchasing power of $6.41 today.

In its early years, Marion always seemed to have three or four restaurants.

In 1905, in addition to the Elgin Hotel, there were two restaurants on the south side of Main St. between 1st and 2nd Sts. and one at the southeast corner of Main and 4th Sts.

All but one of these was gone by 1922, but three new restaurants had popped up — one in a now-demolished building west of St. Luke Auxiliary Thrift Shoppe, one in what’s now the eastern building of Western Associates, and one in what’s now JR Hatters.

Last modified Jan. 16, 2020