As owners of McDonald’s for 36 years, Ros and Peter Kormanik made an impact on the lives of more than 10,000 employees and countless customers who walked through the doors of their stores in Litchfield, Hutchinson and Annandale.
Leaving that was not easy.
“It was tough,” Ros said of the Kormanik’s decision earlier this year to retire and sell their stores. “It was hard. It was really hard to leave. I mean, it was the right decision. It was time for us to step out and enjoy life and spend more time with grandkids and travel. I mean because being the owners, we never personally traveled a lot. And it was time for us to make that decision, but it was a hard decision, too, because of the family – the McDonald’s family.”
Peter and Ros began working at McDonald’s in their teens. Around the mid-1960s, Peter started out as a maintenance man for McDonald’s in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and he worked his way up to shift manager – putting in 40 hours a week while studying, he said. Ros, on the other hand, worked at the McDonald’s in Dinkytown, in the early 1970s – but not quite as a manager.
“Back when I started, they wouldn’t let females in management (positions),” Ros said. “So I was what they called at that time, ‘key person,’ one that would watch the floor, but you didn’t have the manager title. And then after that … I had the opportunity to go to the regional office in Minneapolis, and I became the bookkeeper … for 12 company stores.”
Through their involvement with McDonald’s, Peter and Ros met and hit it off, eventually marrying in 1978. Soon after, a business opportunity for operating McDonald’s stores knocked at Kormaniks’ door. They had the option to either move to Cloquet, Minnesota, or Litchfield – they chose Litchfield.
“I grew up in the Cities, I would never go back to the Cities,” Ros said. “Because I like small community. I like where I know everybody. I go to the grocery store, I know people. I know the people that are checking me out – it’s just a safety issue.”
“I think if you look at the advantages out here (Litchfield), it’s a good school system, low crime, great community support from the chambers, and all the service clubs that we have are doing fine,” Peter added. “The city crew are awesome. … Overall we’ve got a good city government.”
Kormaniks didn’t waste any time getting involved in their new hometown. When they moved to Litchfield in 1983, they dived right into the small-town life. Community involvement was a significant aspect for them to meet and connect with the locals, and also to give back, they said. So in 1993, Peter became a member of the Litchfield City Council and served for 13 years.
“Peter and Ros were great supporters of school activities, always offering coupons for events,” said Judy Hulterstrum, executive director of Litchfield Chamber of Commerce. “They sponsored many chamber events and served on several retail committees. Ros was the main organizer for the annual Snowflake promotion, which is now the Get Wrapped up holiday shopping promotion. In general they have marketed Litchfield and all programs.”
“Ray Kroc’s (McDonald’s owner) thing was ‘support the community that supports you,’” Peter said. “So his word was if you’re in a community, support the community. That’s what we took as our mantra at the time – to just do that. So we were going to support this community any way we can. So I joined the Lions Club, we joined the Chamber of Commerce.”
Kormaniks’ Litchfield McDonald’s store was permeated with the same spirit of service, which drew in many people, who enjoyed not only ordering food, but also spending time socializing with the Kormaniks and the staff.
“Since we live in Litchfield, we do more things in Litchfield than the involvement we had in Annandale and Hutchinson, because we’re here all the time,” Peter said. “We see our customers at the grocery store, we see them at the Central Park, we see them at Watercade. So we’re very attuned to ‘we want this to be the best McDonald’s around,’ because we have that pride to make this store that way.”
Different generations of families had the opportunity to work with the Kormaniks over the years, which created a sense of closeness, inter-dependence and trust among them.
“We’ve had whole families work for us,” Peter said. “We got mom and dad, and then two of their kids – (who) are in high school – work for us. So that tells us that if you have people coming back like that, you must be doing the right thing, because they are proud enough to have their kids coming to work for us. So that makes us feel good.”
On May 1, the Kormaniks turned over their three McDonald’s to Kevin Cook of Brainerd, who now owns 20 McDonald’s stores in different parts of Minnesota, Peter said.
“But we’ve known Kevin a long time, and we’ve been talking for about the last three years,” Peter said. “I was getting old – I turn 70 this year – so it was time for me to move on and relax, and lose the stress of trying to hire employees and train employees, and all the other stuff that’s going on these day – shortage in the workforce and everything else.”
The Kormaniks will continue to help Cook for about two years with training managers to run the business similar to the way they operated their McDonald’s stores.
That knowledge was recognized in a note sent out from the McDonald’s Denver Field Office at the time of their retirement.
“Thank you, Peter and Ros, for your love of McDonald’s,” said Myra Doria, vice president of McDonald’s Denver Field Office, “and for your many contributions to the System over the years. The Denver Field Office wishes you and your family all the best in the future.”
“Ros is still involved,” Peter said. “She still helps with the marketing, in the three towns with the radio stations, newspaper in Annandale – and stuff like that.”
What the Kormaniks hope to get out of retiring is spending more time with their four grandchildren and taking short trips, but still being active in the community.
“So yes, we’re still involved in the community, we’re still going to be involved in things,” Peter said. “I’m just going to take one full year off not volunteering for anything, so that I can decide how much do I really want to get back involved with things. Because part of that time – not only was I on city council and Meeker County Development, Litchfield Industries, being a member of the Lions Club and I also coached my son in hockey for seven years – that was the kind of involvement that we’ve always had.”