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Shakes ‘N’ Stuff to become M&J’s Front Porch as new owners take over

Mike and Janelle Phillips pose for a photo on Monday afternoon in their business Shakes 'N' Stuff. The Mitchell couple purchased the diner in May and opened in early October. (Sara Bertsch/ Republic)

Mike Phillips has always dreamed of opening his own ice cream shop.

And approximately a month and a half ago, his dream became a reality as he and his wife, Janelle, opened Shakes 'N' Stuff. The couple purchased the building on May 30, and spent the summer cleaning, repainting and touching it up before officially opening on Oct. 6.

"It's just something I've always wanted," Mike said. "It came up for sale and I kind of jumped on it. We've revived it a little bit and we're going to make a go of it."

Located at 1701 W. Havens Ave., the small diner sits on the corner of Havens Avenue and Ohlman Street offering burgers, fried chicken, Philly cheese steak, brisket, fries, onion rings and milkshakes. But it wouldn't be a proper ice cream shop if it sold only milkshakes, Mike said, adding that they also sell candy palaces — ice cream mixed with candy — sundaes and soft serve ice cream cones.

"You won't go away hungry. That's for sure," Janelle said.

But, more often than not, Mike and Janelle won't be seen behind the counter. Mike, who considers himself a "public relations person," will often be found near the door greeting customers and chatting with visitors. Instead, customers may find Mike and Janelle's daughter, Latasha, or Mike's sister Lynn Zoss, standing behind the register, ready to take an order.

It's a family environment for the Phillips and all those who stop by, they said. And the diner's new name, M&J's Front Porch, will reflect this environment.

The new name along with added upgrades will be in place before the summer season, and the Phillips family is already prepared for busy times ahead.

The diner is currently open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The winter hours are subject to change, but once summer hits, Mike said they may be open later if customers need them to be. Shakes 'N' Stuff also offers drive-thru, delivery and sit-down options.

Since opening more than a month and a half ago, the family has seen both good and bad days. Often when the sun is shining, Mike said more customers are apt to stop by. But as soon as it's cloudy and windy, they "don't do so hot." But another struggle the family faces is that many people aren't aware the business is open.

But they're looking to change that. With a fresh look with bright yellow and pink walls inside the diner, the Phillips plan to paint the outside a shade of purple, hoping to stand out. They also plan to post updates and photos on their Facebook page, "Shakes 'N' Stuff."

And throughout the process, Mike's family is eager to help him out. His sister, Zoss, hasn't worked for the past 10 years, but since her brother opened the shop, she jumped at the chance to help in any way she can — including happily taking orders at his diner.

"I just wanted to come work for my baby brother. I love it," she said. "I love meeting the people and we've got good customer service here. It's phenomenal. I just want him to be a success, and that's why I'm here."

For past 26 years, Mike has worked at Avera Queen of Peace and Janelle has worked at the Davison County Sheriff's Office for 22 years. And while neither have restaurant experience, they look forward to the challenge. Also on their staff is Kraig Vogel, who can be seen in the kitchen, grilling and frying up a storm.

Vogel worked at the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis for 16 years, and though he's not a part of the family, he's happy to be cooking with the Phillips.

"We've got the best food in town," he said, smiling from within the kitchen.