It’s been several weeks since the Clarkfield Cafe assumed new management, and local residents are loving what they’re seeing. The new manager is Clarkfield native Natasha Lynne, although the city retains ownership of the business.
Originally born and raised in Clarkfield, Lynne moved back to the area about 8 years ago. She has three kids, all of whom attend Clarkfield Area Charter School. Lynne recently had a brain tumor removed, an event she says has given her a new appreciation for living life to the fullest. Lynne remains deeply involved in various area civic groups including the Clarkfield Cardinals and the Library Board.
When the City of Clarkfield announced earlier this summer that they would no longer be able to retain ownership of the cafe as a result of an audit by the Minnesota State Auditor’s Office, a public meeting was held to discuss options. After seeing that nobody was stepping up to carry on managing the cafe, Lynne had a realization that this could be her ‘dare to be great’ moment.
Lynne says that her focus is on providing customers with fresh, locally sourced homestyle food. All the rolls arebaked fresh daily and the fresh meat is supplied by Moberg Meat out of Canby. Eventually, Lynne hopes to grow the selection of locally grown produce on the menu.
Lynne has also added Clarkfield-themed memorabilia to the cafe decor, part of her plans of making the cafe a genuinely Clarkfield community space. Now lining the walls are old class photographs, vintage Clarkfield High School jerseys, and scenes from Main Street ‘back in the day.’ At the entrance to the Cafe is a newly installed ‘Community Board’ were residents can post about upcoming events and activities.
Many residents say that the new decoration brings back old memories and make the cafe an inviting space to be in. Lynne says that she has learned a lot about Clarkfield’s history going through the collection (which was assembled by local residents for the old gym). She hopes to expand the wall display into the back hall, which can be used for private events and extra seating.
An important source of culinary inspiration for Lynne was her own family history. Cooking and spending time in her kitchen was a big part of Lynne’s childhood, and helped to instill in her a lifelong love of cooking. “When I was younger, I would just cook,” she said, describing how she would prepare meals for her siblings. To this day, Lynne is a food enthusiast who enjoys watching cooking shows in her free time.
The revamped menu now offers several family favorites, including several by her Grandma Elsie Hilden. Crowd favorites include the banana cream pie, caramel rolls, and the beef commercial. “Everybody knows her,” Lynne said, “and everybody knows how good it is.”
Lynne has also overseen several improvements to the facility, including a new stove.
This is the first time Lynne has ever managed a restaurant before. “It’s been stressful, but it’s been good,” she admitted before adding that “I enjoy cooking.”
And from the look of, all her hard work and determination is paying off. Last Friday night there was a full house from the Cafe - an increasingly common sight at the busy restaurant. There are already a few regulars who come in for breakfast and coffee in the mornings, and word is rapidly spreading around town.