- Associated Press - Saturday, July 15, 2017

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - A dishwashing job more than 40 years ago launched a satisfying career in the restaurant industry for Steve Murphy, who figures he’s fed most of Minot at one time or another.

“It’s been a pretty good ride so far,” said Murphy, who with his wife, Denise, has owned and managed several Minot establishments and currently operates Sevens Bar & Restaurant in The Vegas motel.

In 2015, Sevens was named North Dakota’s best steakhouse in an analysis of online restaurant reviews by MSN.com, the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/2tgcJBi ) reported.

“All of our food here, we like to make from scratch. We make all of our dressings, all of our sauces. We actually cut our own steaks here,” Murphy said. “A lot of our beef is actually sourced in North Dakota.”

The Murphy name is well known in Minot’s food industry, although Murphy’s initial restaurant training was in Rapid City, South Dakota. He spent part of his youth in Minot, attending elementary and junior high at Little Flower and Bishop Ryan schools, before moving with his family moved to Rapid City. There, he took a job at a Country Kitchen as a dishwasher in 1974. He was promoted to cook, and management quickly saw additional potential, asking if he would like to become a manager trainee.

The $130 a week sounded pretty good at that time so he took the offer and eventually became an assistant manager. When offered the general manager position at the Minot Country Kitchen in 1977, Murphy and his Rapid City bride, who was eager for an adventure, headed for their new home in Minot.

“That really molded us and gave us some very valuable training,” Denise Murphy said of their time with Country Kitchen.

In 1980, they bought the Country Kitchen on South Broadway, but an even bigger opportunity came about five years later when they turned the restaurant into an independent enterprise, which enabled them to develop their own recipes and create a dining environment responsive to their customers’ tastes.

Some of their menu items over the years were created for and named after customers, such as the Big Joe’s Scramble that became a menu hit and a part of the Ryans Family Dining identity.

The decision to name Ryans Family Dining after their son, who was only about 4 years old at the time, was a matter of frugality.

“When you are buying a business, every nickel counts. I had to have a sign made. The sign guy wanted me to call it Murphys Family Restaurant,” Steve Murphy said. The cost of a sign depended on the number of letters, though.

Ryan had only four letters in it so the sign was way cheaper,” Murphy said.

The name was a harbinger of the family involvement that was to come. Ryan Murphy and his sister, Jessica Anderson, grew up in the business from babyhood and worked alongside their parents from their early teens. Having a restaurant that shared his name had a marked influence on him, Ryan Murphy said.

“I wanted to live up to the name,” he said. “It’s kind of an honor to have that name and to have the stories and memories behind it.”

The Murphys still remember Ryans Family Dining as a special place, although they have great memories of all the places they’ve been associated with.

“The people of Minot took note of our operations so other people asked us to start running their restaurants,” Steve Murphy said.

From October 1981 to October 1984, the Murphys owned and operated Steamer & Beef, a sandwich shop in Dakota Square Mall. Recruited by the Westlie brothers - Gordon, Charles and James - they took over Country Lane Restaurant in Town & Country Center in June 1982. Denise Murphy managed that restaurant for 12 years.

In 1985, the Murphys were approached by Drs. Libi and Lim to operate Cafe Continental in Dakota Square Mall. The Murphys eventually bought the supper club and continued running it until October 1993.

In 1994, the Murphys joined Jeff Miller in owning and operating Embassy Food & Drink Supper Club in the Elks Club in downtown Minot. The business operated until 2004.

The Minot Country Club approached the Murphys in 1995 about starting a restaurant at its facility. They agreed, and Denise Murphy managed that operation for many years. The restaurant closed when the golf course flooded in 2011.

In 2004, the Murphys were persuaded to open a restaurant in The Vegas.

“Now we just have Sevens, but I tell people that if you have eaten anywhere in Minot, there’s an 80 percent chance that I fed you,” Steve Murphy said. “Sometimes I have actually fed people twice in the same day at different locations.”

It’s been possible because the Murphys have catered numerous community events over the years, including feeding as many as 3,600 people at an SRT annual meeting. The list includes events of the Family Motor Coach Association, Magic City Dragway, Dakota Cruisers and downtown events such as last year’s Halloween party. It includes business functions, graduations and the annual poker tournament held at The Vegas.

Steve Murphy also was a co-founder in 1997 of Motor Mania, a motor sports festival held on Labor day weekend in Minot. He was an owner in Magic Internet Services, an internet service provider that operated from 1995 until sold to SRT in 2003.

These days, Steve Murphy can often be found in the Sevens kitchen, where he enjoys unleashing his creativity using industrial restaurant tools that give him an unlimited amount of cooking power.

Denise and Ryan Murphy handle front-house operations. Ryan had left Minot to attend college in Colorado. He turned down an internship in meteorology to return to the family restaurant business, bringing back the bar training he’d gained while in Colorado.

“I am happy that I came back. I am very happy that we decided to do this as a family and keep this going,” he said.

“This is how we grew up. This is our life. It’s important to us,” Anderson added. Anderson, who is an X-ray technician, still lends a hand whenever and wherever needed at Sevens, and her husband also helps.

Anderson said the skills she learned in working with the public and the work ethic she picked up from her parents have served her well. She and her brother agree that working at the family’s restaurants has always felt more like fun than labor because that’s where family and friends are.

The Murphys consider the “family” aspect of their restaurant to extend to their employees, some of whom have had generations of family members involved. One dishwasher has worked for the Murphys for 38 years, and three employees still are going strong in their 70s.

The Murphys participate in an employment program for people with disabilities by making jobs available.

“I feel this is a great way to help the community,” Denise Murphy said.

Anderson said it’s not unusual for her to encounter former employees out in the community because so many people got their start by working at a Murphy-owned restaurant over the past 40 years.

Long-time customers are easy to find, too. Some diners have followed the Murphys from restaurant to restaurant. The Murphys stay on top of what is trending in the industry, but they particularly want to create the environment and type of menu that keeps customers coming back.

“We want to hear about things we can do better. We like to sit down and listen to our customers,” Ryan Murphy said.

The secret to success is pleasing the customer, and pleasing the customer comes down to a simple principle, according to Steve Murphy.

“For the most part, people like to eat and they want good food,” Murphy said. “Our goal is good food. If you have good food and good service, people will continue to be your customers.”


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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