Curran’s founder Mike Curran dies; local ties praised

Family restaurant patriarch Michael D. Curran, founder of Kingfield’s Curran’s Family Restaurant, died July 22 of a heart attack. He was 82.

Dennis Curran, the restaurant’s current owner, said his father’s death was unexpected. Curran said he will remember his dad as a warm and loyal man to his family.

He said he appreciated the strong customer-based work ethic he acquired working with his father. "He treated everyone the same and made them feel like they were in his home," Curran said. "Through my father, I felt a strong community bond."

Dennis Curran said his father’s love for the city developed from his upbringing on a farm. "He hated working on the farm," Dennis said, so Michael Curran longed to be part of the city.

Dennis said after Michael Curran served his tour of duty in Hawaii during World War II, he returned and settled in Minneapolis to live with his sister, who owned a drive-in in Northeast Minneapolis.

"That’s where he got the idea," Curran said.

The Curran Family restaurant started in 1948 as a 14-foot-by-14-foot drive-in, serving hot dogs and root beer. Curran said his dad picked the location because of the proximity to what was then Nicollet Park, now Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Fifty-four years later the restaurant is still packed, serving 164 customers with a line to the door and a full parking lot on a Monday morning.

Mark Rottach, Curran’s night manager, said many people have come into the restaurant offering condolences and saying how much they appreciated Michael Curran’s kindness to their parents years ago.

Rottach said Michael Curran’s pride in his restaurant was something that distinguished him. "His thing was quality food, good service and a fair meal for a fair price," he said.

Rottach said he remembers how the elder Curran would go to customers’ tables and talk to them, whether they were strangers or old friends. He said he often saw him swapping stories with fellow World War II veterans.

The long-established relationships built over the years are apparent in the outpouring of community support, Curran said. "We’re getting so much positive support form the community," he said, "He always loved all the people in the neighborhood."

Francine Gifford, a Curran’s waitress for 22 years, said she learned a lot from watching Michael Curran. "He was very understanding and he always felt very fortunate his life turned out the way it did," she said.

Gifford said her favorite memories of him were on the restaurant’s biggest business day of the year, the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations featuring corned beef and cabbage. "He’d always wear this funny St. Patrick’s Day hat," she said, "People would come every year to see him, because it was such a festive time."

She said that Michael Curran made the restaurant a special place in the community. "The relationships I’ve seen with customers that have developed over the years is amazing," she said," People feel so comfortable here."

Curran survived by Betty, his wife of 54 years, his five children JoAnn, Jim, Dennis, Mary Jane and Gary, and many grandchildren.