Seymour Culver’s eyeing opening month, looking for full staff

The new Culver’s in Seymour is starting to take shape.

The 1.8-acre lot at 203 N. Sandy Creek Drive recently had the kitchen equipment, kitchen and booths all installed, which was a “major step,” owner John Laskowski said.

The final major thing he has on his to-do list is to hire enough staff. You can find the tall, 6-foot-6 Laskowski outside Culver’s conducting interviews in a trailer in the parking lot.

Laskowski said Culver’s typically has 15 people working lunch and 15 working dinner.

“That’s a lot of people, but that helps get the job done, and it also helps support our other quality, which is hospitality,” he said. “We don’t want to open up with not enough people. It’s taking a little longer to get the number of stuff that we need to operate. We’ll open when we can get that done. Even if the building is ready before that, it’s a matter of people’s first impression of everything is lasting.”

The goal, Laskowski hopes, is to open sometime in April.

It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic shortened staffs in the fast-food industry, and Laskowski admits it has been a challenge trying to build that back up.

He said some places have gone to strictly drive-thrus, but he doesn’t want to do that with Culver’s because the dining experience is what makes Culver’s different.

“We serve food, we serve good food and we want to make that hospitality a major part of what we do,” Laskowski said.

“We’re going to wait until we have enough people, and then we’re going to open,” he said. “It’s a strategy that works. Culver’s is the No. 1 burger chain in America. It’s a great experience. The people who have been to Culver’s know it, and the people who haven’t been are going to go, ‘Wow! This is really different,’ and that’s why we’re in the way we are in that we need to get the proper staff.”

The drive-thru experience at Culver’s also is intended to be quicker than most since it’s going to have two lanes. There will be a canopy outside in case it rains, and employees will be outside taking orders early to make the line go faster, which is a similar style to how Chick-fil-A operates.

Seymour is a spot Laskowski has been looking at for a while for a new Culver’s, and that’s because his wife, Alice Scott Laskowski, grew up in the city.

Her father is Lloyd “Barney” Scott, the legendary name behind Seymour High School’s Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium. He was the Owls boys basketball coach from 1961 to 1974. During that time span, Seymour’s record was 233-91, and the Owls won nine sectional and five regional titles and made it to the final eight four times.

Her mother is well-known in the area, as well. Marguerite Sousley was an English teacher, and Laskowski said anyone around the age of 60 or older now likely had Marguerite as their professor.

“I wish they were still alive because they would rejoice at seeing this place and being a part of it,” Laskowski said.

There will be a photo of Scott inside the Seymour Culver’s with a bio of him, too.

Laskowski, who was born in South Bend, also plans to have the No. 31 jersey he wore while playing for Indiana University under legendary coach Bob Knight.

Knight visits the Culver’s in Bloomington often, and Knight’s wife, Karen, told Laskowski to let them know when the Culver’s in Seymour opens up.

“Look out for Bob Knight coming to the Culver’s in Seymour,” Laskowski said.

Laskowski also has a cool photo from when he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated on Feb. 3, 1975, to put in the building. Another item is a Polaroid picture from May 1971 when Laskowski was at St. Joseph’s High School in South Bend and Knight was on a recruiting trip to come see him.

Laskowski’s high school head coach was Bob Donewald, who eventually was an assistant with Knight at Indiana. Donewald’s daughter, Lisa, is married to Kirk Manns, Seymour’s athletic director and boys basketball head coach.

“I’ve gotten to know Kirk very well,” Laskowski said. “I’ve seen his team play, and they had a great year.”

All of these connections Laskowski has to Seymour embody the communal relationship he wants Culver’s to have here in town.

“We are here to be a partner with the community and help where we can,” he said.

They plan to have share nights for church groups, charity organizations or a high school that needs money for the band, choir or athletics.

“They can make anywhere from $200 to $500 a night,” he said. “We actually have them carry food out to the group. It really is a fun night, and we want to do that here in Seymour.”

Laskowski is expecting a big opening in Seymour, and he wants to make sure they’re ready for it. The goal still remains sometime in April, but it comes down to hiring not just the right amount of people but the right people, too.

Laskowski believes Seymour has those.

“We’re really looking for personality,” he said. “I can train them how to do the job, but I can’t train personality. We want friendly, outgoing people, and small towns have those people, and that’s what a small town is all about.”