"This is Yvonne Nyenhuis, and I have some stories to tell you about the White Front Cafe. In the mid '80s, Glen and I came to a crossroad in our lives. I suggested to Glen that we consider moving to Lanesboro. Glen looked mildly surprised. What would I do to make a living, he asked. Maybe The White Front will be available, I answered. He hesitated, and looked down in the vicinity of his toes. The trouble is that Lanesboro hasn't decided if it will live or die.
At that time, many of the shops were closed, and the streets were empty. It appeared at times to be a ghost town. No matter what happens to the town, people have to eat, I insisted. It turned out the (owners) were ready to retire. Olive had fallen on ice and broken both her wrists. Art had been standing on crutches to cook. Glen rode in on his white horse, offering them much-need relief, and incidentally, learning about the business of running a restaurant. In May 1987, we invited the whole town to open house in honor of Olive and Art's 19 years of service in the community. It was a celebration for their wedding anniversary.
We served plates of spaghetti to our guests. Home sweet home. Actually, Glen and I didn't feel like The White Front was ours. We felt that it belonged to the people of the town, and we were just caretakers there to serve. The Lions met in our back room, church groups held Bible classes. We put on an annual banquet for the firemen, and also the NFO, the National Farm Organization, and meetings for the Sales Barn took place in the back room. One day, we served a convention of police officers. Black and white cars were parked up and down the street. Later, I realized that our regular customers stayed away. I suggested the next time they come to lunch, they might park a block away or in the back of the restaurant. Glen and I operated The White Front for 13 years.
We saw the railroad replaced with the bike trail and the daring initiative of live theater, an art gallery, an explosion of bed and breakfasts and restaurants. In spite of many changes, the spirit of volunteerism and good will has remained strong. Lanesboro is a haven in a tumultuous world."
This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record, gather, and share stories about small-town America. Listen to other stories recorded by storytellers from Lanesboro, Minnesota, for the "Be Here: Main Street" project on the Be Here: Lanesboro channel.