Many Clarkfield residents are holding out hope that the local cafe may one day open again for business. Closed since 2014, the former Friendship Cafe (located in the strip mall across the street from city hall) was once a central fixture in the community. Clarkfield has struggled to attract a permanent full-time cafe, but community leaders are optimistic that a solution may be just around the corner.

Since the closure of the cafe, the Clarkfield EDA has been closely involved with efforts to refurbish the space and find a new owner. Last year, Steve Lindholm, President and owner of F&M Bank, donated the vacant cafe to the EDA, which now owns the space under a 5-year retainer agreement. “The goal of the donation agreement is to help the cafe become self-sustaining over the next five years,” said Deputy City Clerk Teather Bliss.

Lindholm strongly believes that the reopening of the cafe is an important priority for Clarkfield. He explained that a new cafe will provide a functional, social, and commercial benefit to the community, adding that it “plays a critical function” in town. He argues that having a shared space helps keep the community together, in addition to attracting visitors and investors alike. A new cafe will also present a unique public space available to residents for hosting community events.

At the same time, Lindholm acknowledges the realities of owning and running a restaurant in a small town. “To overcome that,” he explained, “we wanted to meet the needs of the community as well as provide an economically viable business model for a new owner.” This was why Lindholm decided to donate the space and kitchen equipment to the EDA, which he thought was a good vehicle through which to redevelop the cafe.

Bliss explained that the EDA will be on hand throughout the remaining four years of the donation agreement to assist any potential owner, rather than just “dumping it on them and letting them flounder.” Additionally, the space is being offered rent free during this period, another benefit that Bliss hopes will attract interested parties. Prospective owners will therefore have additional time to fully weigh their choices before purchasing the property outright after the EDA leaves.

To date, the Clarkfield EDA has invested roughly $100,000 in renovations over the past year. The EDA has also received considerable support from the community. The company and their contributions are listed below:

•Lois Lynner, J.H. Lynner’s – Donated all the carpet

•Gay Rupp, PTL Painting – Painted entire restaurant

•Ron Schlenner, Schlenner Construction – Renovations, donated labor and some materials •Rodney Bruflat, Bruflat Plumbing & Heating – Updated plumbing and heating, donated labor and some materials

•Bill Weinhold, Bill’s Electric – Updated electrical and LED lighting, donated labor and some materials

•Troy Bruflat – Fabrication and donation of steel food pass through windows

•Steve Lindholm, F&M Bank – Donation of restaurant and strong advocate for restaurant •Lion’s Club – Waffle Feed Fundraiser for tables and chairs

•YMC Farm Bureau Agency – Donation for tables and chairs for the use of the restaurant for their banquet

•Miller Equipment – Fabrication of kitchen steel under hood vent.

Earlier this month, the EDA found an interested party in the cafe. Although a lease was signed, the individuals withdrew shortly after signing. The property remains available, and city officials are working tirelessly to find a new owner.

After months of work, the interior is finally finished. Recent additions include a set of stainless steel food windows donated by local metalworker Troy Bruflat and LED lighting installed by Bill Weinhold of Bill’s Electric.

The cafe occupies 6,670 square feet and can seat up to 145 people. Interested parties are encouraged to email Teather Bliss at trbliss@clarkfield.org, or call 320-669-4815 for more information or to schedule a visit.