Country Cafe: New owners will soon celebrate first anniversary
By Renae B. Vander Schaff
Date Modified: 05/30/2012 1:31 PM
LEOTA, Minn. — Family businesses occur in many occupations. An excellent example of that is in the Leota Cafe in in Nobles County.
"I was looking for employment," said 17-year-old Kathryn Vander Ziel. "In this area there really wasn't any unless I wanted to drive many miles for just a few hours of work. That just wasn't practical."
About that time, the 75-year-old Leota Cafe was facing a closure because the owner was dying of cancer. Residents of Leota were hoping for a miracle.
The cafe plays an important role in keeping the town alive. It's also a meeting place for the town's residence.
Dollars and cents issues made finding a new owner seem improbable.
That is until Gene and Kammi Vander Ziel looked at the cafe as a possible family business where they could employ their five children.
They purchased the Leota Cafe in June 2011.
Kammi runs the cafe with the help of her children, who each have a regularly scheduled work day.
The Vander Ziel's homeschool their children Stefen, 15, Julia, 12, and Kymberly, 10. Oldest daughter Anna Sas is married and lives in Leota. She helps at the cafe on Saturdays.
The menu is standard cafe fare with breakfast items in the morning and sandwiches at noon. Homemade pie is always on the menu. Sour cream raisin the most popular.
Kathryn makes ollie bollen on Fridays. It's a favorite with many residents who have a Dutch/German background. The ollie bollen is bestdescribed as an apple fritter with raisins. Cinnamon rolls freshly baked are a Saturday morning must-have.
"We try to buy local as much as possible," said Kathryn. "The meat comes from the locker next door and the bread is from the bakery in Edgerton. To us it is important to do what you do in your own community."
Coffee drinkers gather as soon as the cafe opens, followed by another group at 9 a.m. If a regular is celebrating a birthday, he or she buys the coffee for the day.
The cafe is a reflection of the community in other ways too. A mural by a local resident Jake Overbeek adorns one wall. When Overbeek died, his many paintings were distributed to Leota residents. Kathyn chose her favorite, which now is displayed in the cafe.
A cupboard is filled with game boards. An exhibition of tractors keeps changing as a local resident keeps the shelf filled.
The menu is printed in English, but there's an occasional Dutch word to reflect the town's background. The Vander Ziel children have decided to learn a bit of Dutch so they can interact with some customers who still speak Dutch.
As customers enter, they see a plaque that reads, "Welcome to the Leota Cafe, we ask God's blessings on all who enter here.''