PAOLA — Mike and Loretta Folsom admit 2020 has forced them to get creative to make sure they can keep serving customers at their Paola restaurant on the north side of Park Square.
So when time came to give the front façade at 16 W. Peoria St. a fresh coat of paint and remove the aging awning, they decided it was also the perfect time to give the restaurant a new name.
That’s how Emery’s Steakhouse became Milo’s Steakhouse.
“We didn’t want to change the name just to change the name,” Mike said. “It needed to have meaning to us.”
“Milo’s” is a combination of Mike and Loretta’s first names, and it continues a tradition in which the restaurant’s name is representative of the family ownership.
The Folsoms realize that many people will still call the restaurant Emery’s, as it was previously owned by Todd Emery, or even Frank’s, from back when it was owned by Frank Vohs.
They just want to assure their customers that the menu, service and atmosphere is staying the same.
“It’s still the same food,” Mike said.
After all, the Folsoms have no reason to change the atmosphere of the eatery, which has always had a special place in their hearts. It’s the same restaurant where they met and fell in love 20 years ago when Mike was working as a cook and Loretta as a waitress.
They also learned just how important the restaurant is to their loyal customer base when they were forced to close down the in-person seating and shift to curbside delivery once the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March.
Customers showed their support by purchasing to-go family meals and making donations, and when dine-in services returned a couple of months later, they flocked back to their favorite booths and tables.
“There’s something about being able to just go out to eat and just feel somewhat normal,” Mike said.
In some ways, Mike said, the entire COVID-19 situation has been a blessing because it forced them to refocus and look for ways to be more efficient in all areas of their operation. It also has helped them appreciate what they have and realize just how fragile everything in life can be.
“I think all small businesses are more vulnerable than they think they are,” Mike said.
He added that customers have been very complimentary of their new front facade, with some commenting that they can now see the lampposts with the awning gone.
Loretta said she’s so thankful for the support of their loyal customers, and maintaining a high level of service for them will always be the top priority for the business.
“They are the reason that we’re still open,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”