The 17-year veteran in retail management looked for towns featuring a desirable small-town atmosphere comparable to where she grew up in South Carolina.
“I have a lot of friends in the restaurant business,” says Hammond. “From watching them, I knew it was something I wanted to do. It was just a matter of finding the right place.”
The city of Winnebago was active on the social media outlets of Facebook and Twitter and that drew Hammond’s attention, who was then living in Southern California.
“I had my heart set on living in Winnebago,” she recalls. “But, the first place I looked into buying, it didn’t work out.”
In a last attempt to find a place before heading back to California, Hammond visited with a local realtor who directed her to previous Winnebago Grill owner Scott Robertson.
“I wanted to get the restaurant up and running and then sell it,” Robertson says. “Out of the blue, Shannon (Hammond) appeared.”
The two reached a deal and Hammond officially took over ownership on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Since then, she has kept traditional items at the grill, but also put her own spin on the menu.
“We have added a few things (to the menu),” Hammond says. “We have focused on healthier options like turkey and vegetable burgers.”
She has also debuted a reuben and chicken wrap that has gone over well with customers.
The biggest change to the grill since new ownership took over may be the hours of operation. Pizza is now available Monday through Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m.
In addition, the grill is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. six days a week with daily lunch specials. A full menu is still available Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m.
Hammond has also been busy implementing special events to draw more customers to the grill. Last week, the restaurant had a busy weekend.
On Friday, the grill held their first karaoke night. It will continue to take place every first and third Friday of the month.
“I noticed their wasn’t a lot of social activity in town at night,” Hammond says. “We had a fun get together of family and friends hanging out.”
On Sunday, the grill unveiled their first brunch featuring a massive spread of breakfast and dinner items for $10. They hope to continue hosting Sunday brunch once a month in the future.
Sunday evening, the grill kept going for a Super Bowl special capping a very successful weekend.
“It has been easy to get to know people,” Hammond says. “They have been inviting and welcoming. These things have helped me know I made the right choice.”
“My biggest worry was that a small town doesn’t like change,” Robertson says. “Shannon (Hammond) is easy to approach, visits and knows people’s names already.”
Although no longer the owner, you can still find Robertson lending a hand in the kitchen once in a while.
“I have been in food service for a long time,” Robertson says. “It gets in your blood and I am here if Shannon needs help. I work for real cheap.”
The former owner wishes nothing but the best for his old business.
“What Shannon has going for her is that she has a pizza and a grill,” Robertson says. “Those two things work well together.”
Another bonus has been the theme of old memorabilia displayed in the grill. Customers can find vintage Winnebago uniforms, pictures and yearbook sayings unique to the town.
“I want it to be a place to reminisce,” Hammond says. “I have heard 10 stories about every picture on the wall.”
Located on Highway 169, Robertson describes the location as perfect.
“I have fallen in love with the place,” Hammond says. “I couldn’t have it any better.”
The staff at the Winnebago Grill after a busy lunch hour. Front row, Dan Schramm and Scott Robertson. Back row, Randi Rhodes, Shannon Hammond and Mary Ziegler. Hammond, pictured back row middle has been the owner since January 16.