Waseca County Pioneer
103 S. State Street
Waseca, MN

(507) 837-6767

Barney’s Drive-in has been a piece of local culture since 1942.

Waseca fixture in new hands

Five seconds of courage, a facebook message, and a lot of crazy were all part of the process for the new owners of one of Waseca’s oldest restaurants, Barney’s Drive-in.
For 81 years, Barney’s has stood the test of time. Over the past couple years, previous owner Troy Bent has been trying to find someone local to purchase the property/business location located on Old Highway 14 across from Clear Lake. 
The new owners? 
Joe, 43, and Audra, 48, Veroeven. 
“We wanted to do something,” the Veroevens agree. 
“We wanted to invest in something and Joe found this on Facebook,” Audra explains. “We joked about it at first, and then one thing led to another. We came and looked at it [Barney’s] and then we kind of freaked out and bought it.”
“We’re still freaking out,” Joe says. “But…I think we’ll be just fine as long as we don’t do something stupid.
“A lot of folks never take their chance,” Joe adds. “I like to say it takes five seconds of courage to do something great. Make the phone call, go see that person, or… send a Facebook message.”
Audra claims that if she had been asked a few weeks ago whether this level of activity was normal, she would have told you it isn’t. “Hold your nose and go for it. There’s been a lot of that these past few weeks.”
Together the Veroevens have six children and three grandchildren. 
Their oldest, Veronica, is 26 and hopes to begin working as a manager at the restaurant in the coming weeks. A major influence in the whole family is 2-year-old Arthur.
“He’s the real CEO,” Audra jokes. “He really dictates all of the decisions.”
Veronica is a 2015 graduate of Waseca, followed by: Crystal, a 2019 WHS graduate who lives in North Carolina with her fiance (they plan to get married in August); Jillian, 21, who lives in Waseca and graduated from WHS in 2020. Matthew, 14, is a freshman at the high school; readers may recognize his name from his recent trip to the state high school wrestling tournament; Delilah is 12, and currently in sixth grade. The Veroevens say she’s already taking an interest in helping however she can at the restaurant. The youngest, Arthur, turns 3 in September. 
So what about the new owners? 
Joe and Audra met in 1995 when things were “a little different.” 
“It was a time you didn’t have to worry,” Joe recalls. “I was asked to help someone move–that someone was Audra. The rest is history.”
The couple married in 1999 and currently reside in rural Waseca, near the famous “Pink School House.”
Audra grew up in rural Waldorf and graduated from JWP in 1994. She remembers the former Waldorf school well and was in school when Waldorf-Pemberton consolidated with Janesville. 
Both Joe and Audra intend to continue holding down their regular jobs in addition to taking turns manning the grills at Barney’s. 
Audra, is a site manager for Palmer Bus Service and Joe, a site manager for Schilling Graphics in Owatonna. 
What can customers expect from the new owners? 
“It’s the same, but a maybe little better,” Joe answers. “Like visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”
Famous for their root beer, homemade ice cream, broasted chicken, their barbeque and their coney dogs, it’s easy to see why Barney’s has stood the test of time.
Rest assured, those items will all still be available April 1 through October 1, seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
So what is changing? 
100% local beef, state fair hot dogs, and, well, the new owners of course. 
“When you purchase a business like this, that’s been here for 81 years, there's more to it than just dollars and cents,” Audra says. “You tell yourself, it’s going to be okay. We can do this.”
As Joe and Audra told of their plans, they shared numerous experiences they had with customers over their first two weeks.
One individual makes a tradition of coming on opening and closing day every year.
Another, a regular, said he came to Barney’s the day of his wedding. He and his wife have made it their annual tradition to come back every year on their anniversary.
“The people are my favorite part,” Audra says. 
“Sitting on the picnic bench at night staring at the lake is pretty cool too,” Joe adds.


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