Longtime restaurateur retiring, closing Lake of the Ozarks staple

LAKE OZARK, Mo. -- Joseph Boer has watched guests come into his restaurant, The Blue Heron, for 35 years, from a small corner table.

"In the evening I have to kind of watch who comes in to see if I need to be alert and say hello," Boer said.

But on Saturday night, Boer will be saying goodbye.

"You have to finally find a day to say 'this is it,'" Boer added.

Boer came to America on Christmas Day 1956 as a refugee from Holland. He had been deported to Germany to work as a laborer near the end of World War II.

Boer immigrated to the U.S. hoping for more opportunities.

"The tradition in Holland is to do what your father does," Boer said. "My father was a waiter with a dream of having his own restaurant."

Boer made those dreams his reality.

After some work in Kansas City, he made his way to the Mai Tai Resort in Osage Beach, later owning the Potting Steer in Jefferson City.

Then, it was back to Lake Ozark with "Lefty's Steakhouse," eventually bringing fine dining to the lakefront with The Blue Heron.

He says he has an idea on what kept the Blue Heron successful for so long.

"I might believe that it's the personal touch, being here every time," Boer noted. "Having special food that's not dipped out of cans."

Another reason? His wine list.

It won the Wine Spectator Awards "Top 100" in the U.S. several times.

"That became an attraction," Boer said.

Another thing that made Boer's restaurants unique? He never took reservations.

Not even former Governor Kit Bond.

"Nobody is more special than the next guy who can afford to buy his dinner," Boer said.

Joseph is sad to leave the routine he's known for so long, but he's surprised at how many people have wished him well as he closes this chapter of his American Dream.

"They say wonderful things, they say unbelievably kind words. I never was aware that I was appreciated for what we tried to be. It really is heartwarming," Boer said.

And for that, Boer says what he's told his guests every night.

"I say thank you. I really, really thank you."

Boer says he's not sure what he'll do next, but he wants to write a book to share his stories from Holland and his pursuit of the American Dream.

The last day for the Blue Heron is Saturday night