La Porte Co. favorite Junction City Restaurant considers closing after construction

ROLLING PRAIRIE, Ind. (WNDU) - When you put good food and originality together, you get Junction City Restaurant in Rolling Prairie. When you put a construction site next to it for 2 1/2 weeks, then you have a big problem.

"You have to make to make too many U-turns. You have to turn back into traffic and trucks, RV pullers are not going to want to do that," Junction City Restaurant owner Hiram Mitchell said.

Mitchell has owned Junction City at 5636 Highway 20 for 25 years.

Since the Indiana Department of Transportation began construction to Highway 20 to help decrease crashes in the area, Mitchell's customers have been cut in half, and so has his staff.

"It's heartbreaking. They've all become family to me. Got to tell them they can't come to work. 'I can't pay you. There's no business,'" Mitchell said.

Savannah Richie has works as a waitress at Junction City for one year. She says she loves her job and wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

"I need this. So, if this business goes under, then I'm going to have to go someplace else, and I don't really want to because I worked here for a year. I love this place," Richie said.

With blockage to the westbound lanes and no sign of the interstate opening back up until November, longtime customers like Huberd Coghill are worried Junction City won't be there at the end.

"I remember a lot of years and this a good ma-and-pa place to eat and they're going by the wayside," he said.

INDOT says the construction project should be no surprise, as they have been planning this out and have stated it publicly for years.

"When we're putting together a project like this over the course of several years, we make every effort to work with businesses and residents. They're often impacted by our project," INDOT Media Relations Director Adam Parkhouse said.

INDOT also says it is aware of the inconvenience it is for drivers to get to the restaurant. At the completion of the project, there will be dedicated turn lanes for both eastbound and westbound lanes leading into the restaurant.

INDOT also plans to add an overhead sign on Highway 20 to notify drivers Junction City Restaurant is ahead.

For now, temporary signs will be installed to assist drivers toward the restaurant until construction is complete.

"My goal was just to give a good plate of food to anybody who comes in here, and that's been taken away from me," Mitchell said.

Mitchell says he hopes his good food and unique restaurant will help give them the business they need to remain open.