Travelers Inn now owned by third generation Sieve family
As of Jan. 1, Patrick Sieve is the new owner of the downtown Alexandria restaurant, buying it from his dad, Jon Sieve.
Travelers Inn restaurant, a staple in downtown Alexandria for nearly a century, is under new ownership – a third generation ownership.
Patrick Sieve, a 2000 Alexandria graduate, became the owner of the restaurant on Jan. 1, 2022. He takes over for his father, Jon Sieve, who took over for his own parents, back in 1972. It was actually Jon and his brother, Kurt, who bought the restaurant from their parents, Ben and Helen Sieve. Ben and Helen purchased the restaurant in 1967 and for the past 55 years, the restaurant has been owned and operated by members of the Sieve family.
“This is how I always hoped it would be,” said Jon, sitting in a booth at Travelers Inn across from his son on Monday morning. “I am so grateful Patrick is taking over. Patrick has been the captain of our ship these past five years. I’ve just been pushing papers and cleaning tables.”
Jon said a while back a friend had told him that it would be a cold day when he would finally retire and Patrick would take over. Grinning from ear to ear, Jon said he checked the temperature the day he and his son signed the papers and it was -22.
He laughed and said he guessed his friend was right.
Jon stressed that everything with Travelers Inn couldn’t have happened without all the wonderful people who work there and all those who choose to dine there.
“We have a great group of employees, many who have worked here 10 or more years,” said Jon. “None of this happens without them, those people. And without the customers whose loyalty and support is a part of our story. That’s really where the credit lies.”
Grateful and lucky
Patrick said he is excited to take over the family business, but that he is most happy for his dad, who he said has given so much to not only the business, but the community.
In a text message between the two that Jon shared, Patrick said he was happy everything worked out the way it did.
“It seems fitting for a man who has given everything for his family and his community,” Patrick told Jon. “I’m right behind you trying to do likewise. It’s a great life. One that I’m so grateful for and will never forget how lucky I am.”
Patrick, who just turned 40, started working at Travelers at the age of 12. But he’s not the only son of Jon’s who grew up working in the restaurant. Patrick, along with his four brothers – Chris, 50; Danny, 46; Matthew, 42; and AJ, 35 – at one time all worked at the restaurant.
“I grew up bussing tables and washing dishes,” said Patrick.
He recalled a time his dad called home from the restaurant on a nice summer day and needed him to work.
“My mom had to wake me and bring me there and I think I kicked and screamed the whole way there,” he jokingly said, looking at his dad with a sad face. “All my friends would be playing outside and I had to go to work, bussing tables. I think I cried the whole way to the restaurant.”
Jon just smiled at his son and didn’t feel too sorry for him as he remembered all the time he spent working at his parents’ restaurant.
Patrick has spent his whole life working in the hospitality industry, although not all of it at Travelers or in Alexandria. Both Patrick and his brother AJ were encouraged by their other brother, Matthew, to move out to California to work with him at a restaurant there. And they did. Patrick moved to California in 2009, working at a few different restaurants. But he didn’t stay too long.
He remembers in June 2014, after he had just moved back, he was bussing tables at Travelers and thought to himself, “How the heck did I end up back here?”
“The journey has been crazy. I’ve come full circle,” he said, with the biggest smile on his face.
And it also came full circle for Jon, too.
Jon was just 25 when his parents retired and he and Kurt took over the business. A graduate of St. John’s University, Jon said he was supposed to be an English teacher. However, when he returned home from Vietnam in 1972, his parents were going to sell the business and even had a buyer. His mom's health wasn’t the best as she had suffered a heart attack.
“I remember telling them not to sell the business. I asked them to let Kurt and I try it for a year,” said Jon, noting that at the time, he wasn’t really sure why he went to college as he had an inkling he would end up back working at his family’s restaurant.
And he did, for nearly 50 years. But it wasn’t just at Travelers.
At one time he was also part owner and worked at the Brass Lantern, a family-style restaurant that was in the Viking Plaza Mall in Alexandria. Brass Lantern, an offspring of Travelers, closed in early 2021 because of several reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brass Lantern had been in the Sieve family since 1983. Jon and Kurt owned it at one time and then their brother, Mike, ended up buying out Kurt, and it was then owned by Mike and Jon until it closed in 2021.
Jon has fond memories of both restaurants and said there are so many great memories that he couldn’t come up with a favorite. He remembers the earlier years when his parents first owned Travelers Inn, which at the time was also a hotel.
He said people could come to Alexandria, spend two nights at the hotel, eat two breakfasts and have two steak dinners at the restaurant and it would only cost them $25. He said hotel rooms were just $2.50 a night.
Another memory he shared involved his mom’s infamous caramel rolls, which are still a specialty at Travelers each and every day. But she first made them in a restaurant they owned in Long Prairie.
She would make 90 to 100 rolls on a Sunday morning and between 9 and 11:30 a.m., which is when they were open, the caramel rolls would all sell out. He remembers how his dad would be so happy with the sales from that day, which was always less than $100. But a roll and coffee at that time were only just a quarter, he said.
Patrick said his grandma’s recipe is still used to this day and that they are still just as popular. But, he noted, those caramel rolls are not just a hit with the Sunday morning church crowd anymore; they are popular just about any day of the week.
Over the course of the restaurant’s history, there have been five remodels and two expansions.
The most recent remodel took place in three different phases after Patrick started back there in 2014.
He isn’t planning on any more remodels in the near future, but does have plans for some changes to the exterior and would also like to add some new signage.
Jon said Patrick has “really done a pretty good job” over the last five years and that if it wasn’t for him, they may not have survived the pandemic. He said Patrick adapted well and that he believes Patrick will continue doing well now that he is the owner.
Patrick said he likes to put out a new menu each year, keeping the favorites that sell well, like the caramel rolls. But he likes to push the envelope sometimes when trying new items.
Last year he started the avocado benedict and it ended up as one of the restaurant’s best sellers.
Another new thing Patrick introduced is online ordering. It may have been a struggle to get it up and running, but now that he got it figured out, he said it works well.
Going forward, Patrick’s hope is that Travelers Inn continues to be the meeting place for people inside and outside of this community and that it continues for years to come.