A good story always seems to tell itself - it takes on a life of its own – and right now the Clarkfield community has all the makings of a great one! “This is probably one of the most exciting projects we’ve had in a long time,” said Steve Lindholm, owner of F&M Bank.
Ask anyone in Clarkfield and they will tell you they’ve gone without a community cafe for far too long, since 2014 to be exact. Small town cafes, in many ways, are treasured spaces - windows into the very soul of a community. Magical little places where food and personality are interwoven into a single expression – or experience. A small town cafe is a place where the world’s problems can be solved over a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. They are places that help keep the lifeblood of a community pumping. Small town cafes are where the magic happens.
And it is this sentiment that is perhaps felt nowhere stronger than in the community of Clarkfield. It began when the F&M Bank presented an idea to the EDA. “They asked the City to accept the donation of the building,” said Jenny Schuler, Clarkfield EDA Director. “At the same time, members of the community were expressing the desire to have a place to bring their families and businesses needing a place to bring their clients, to sit down and have a meal,” said Schuler.
In fact, the community has taken some pretty unique and big steps to reclaim what is sure to be a valued community asset. “It’s a great opportunity, it’s really set up,” said Lindholm of the yet to be named, owned and operated cafe, “I think everything a person needs is already here.” The cafe has undergone a significant remodel – all the equipment is in place and has passed the Minnesota State health inspection. All combined, representing a significant head start for a new owner.
A waffle breakfast fundraiser was recently held to help with some of the finishing touches – tables, chairs, and other furnishings. This effort was matched with funds from the F&M Bank and Clarkfield Lions Club. But that’s not all. Since the building was donated to the City, there will be no monthly rent to pay.
And, added Lindholm, “the heating, cooling, roof – all taken care of…we want someone to own and run the business and we’re ready for that someone to step in,” said Lindholm. And, it seems that the future owner and operator will find a built in support system. “We’ve tried to fill the gaps that we can - a cafe is very specialized, and needs to be here for the community,” said Schuler. And so, several community members and businesses alike stepped forward in an effort to help “stretch” the EDA budget.
True to a small town, all the skill and talent necessary to complete the task was at “arms length,” and at the ready. Schlenner Construction undertook the remodel, Rod Bruflat- the pluming, Bill Weinhold- the electrical, Gay Rupp - the painting. “We all donated a lot of labor to meet the EDA budget,” added Ron Schlenner. Lindholm was also quick to note the impassioned efforts of those that “got the ball rolling.” Kevin Sharkey, Jamie Olerud, Berdet Schoep, Shermie Winson, and Shortie Miller - all helped to prop up the effort in a variety of ways, namely the initial clean-up efforts. And while a town of only a thousand, the community of Clarkfield is poised to generate traffic into the cafe.
Lindholm notes that, “On an annual basis anywhere from seventeen to twenty thousand trucks deliver to Prairie Grain Partners, and there’s the local FSA where farmers come to do business.” Additionally, Hwy 59 between Montevideo and Marshall runs through Clarkfield, and a whole community eager to have a cafe cannot be left out of the equation. The newly remodeled space, complete with furnishings and equipment boasts a banquet space – where community organizations, businesses and families could utilize the gathering space. It’s an added bonus, and a potential revenue generator.
All that’s left is to find that right fit in an owner and operator. Of importance is some prior restaurant experience, “someone that is able to manage finances, food costs, etc. is necessary,” said Olerud. But that’s not all, equally as important, says Olerud, “is someone interested in filling a need as well as a dream, someone with passion and who understands the value of community involvement.” One would be hard pressed to figure out what is missing – the “pitching in” of an entire community has resulted in a space that is, “turn-key,” and with the support of local residents and businesses is, “set up for success.” said Lindholm.
For more information, interested individuals are asked to contact the City of Clarkfield at 320-669-4435.