Sunday, June 30 was a bittersweet day for Tony and Lorraine Van Kampen.
The day marked their last day as owners of the McDonalds’ franchises in New London, Clintonville and Waupaca. The New London location originally opened on June 27, 1980. The Waupaca location opened in January of 1983 and the Clintonville location opened in October of 1996.
“This is more than a business for us, this has become our family,” Lorraine said. “These people, many of them have been with us a long time. We have a lot of longevity. They are our family.”
The New London location was originally opened by Tony. It was at this location that Tony and Lorraine first met. She was a crew person in New London. Eleven years after Tony opened the New London location, he and Lorraine started dating.
Tony said he had worked in Chicago for 15 years as a supervisor for a McDonald’s operator when he applied for ownership for his own location. His application was accepted and McDonald’s offered him a location. He declined the first location offered to him.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable in the city,” Tony said.
He was then offered New London as a place to open a new McDonald’s.
“I drove through New London downtown, came to the site of where the store was going to be and something told me this is my home,” Tony recalled. “This was before cellphones, so I had to go find a payphone and I never talked to one person in this town. I got on the phone and called McDonald’s and said, ‘Yes, I will take this store.'”
When McDonald’s looked to expand to Waupaca in 1983, it offered the location to Tony. The same thing happened in 1996 in Clintonville.
Now, after 48 years in the business for Tony and 33 years for Lorraine, they have sold the business to Steve Kilian, Jr. of West Bend. Kilian, Jr. and his father own 36 McDonald’s locations in Wisconsin.
“It’s time to move on. Things are moving pretty fast at McDonald’s. I love technology but things are just going so fast. We have a new young operator. He’s going to have a lot more energy. It’s just time. I’d rather go out on top rather than have someone tell us it’s time for us to go,” Tony said.
Lorraine concurred, “It was just time. We’ve had such a good run with McDonald’s.”
They both agreed it was a tough decision, but a decision they’ve been contemplating for around two years.
“It’s been the hardest decision we’ve ever made,” Lorraine said.
Tony said the hardest part of the decision was the people.
“Part of the deal was all the employees were to be hired,” Tony said. “Everybody has a job. That was probably one of the most important things to us.”
They said they plan to continue to live in New London.
This is our home. This is where our family is,” Tony said.
They will continue to be involved in the community and will now have more time for their volunteer work. Both are heavily involved in the Old Glory Honor Flights. Lorraine is on the board at the hospital. Tony is on the board of a nursing home.
“It will give us a little bit more freedom to do that,” Tony said.
It’s still hard to walk away, though.
“We want to thank our employees,” Lorraine said. “Our management teams are awesome. All of our crew, they are the best out there. We want to thank all of the outside services that have been at our doorstep at our beckon call; and the community in the three cities and the surrounding areas.”