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Historic Downtown Le Mars - Cafe memories: A cup of coffee and a slice of history

Thursday, October 25, 2012

(Photo)
The building at 20 Plymouth St. S.W., which now houses consignment store Klazzy Klozet, was built in 1925 and owned by W. G. Bolser. Brickwork at the top of the building reads "1925 Bolser." The building was constructed to house a cafe and a barbershop in the basement. For many years it was Myers Cafe, and then the Club Cafe, as shown in this 1976 photo. Also pictured, Don Gintert, owner of the Club Cafe, working in the restaurant's kitchen in 1962.
Editor's note: This is the twelfth in a series of stories looking at some of the historic buildings in or near downtown Le Mars. The Le Mars Historic Preservation Commission is leading an effort to list the district on the National Register of Historic Places.

For decades, the building at 20 Plymouth St. S.W. was an undisputed gathering place for diners, businesspeople, families and even politicians.

An uncountable number of cups of coffee were served.

(Photo)
From the year it was built, 1925, to the mid 1980s, the yellow brick building housed a local cafe.

Today the building has been transformed into an upscale consignment store, Klazzy Klozet.

The two-story building was constructed in 1925, under the ownership of local banker W. G. Bolser.

"The main floor will be designed for a modern cafe and about $2,000 worth of new equipment will be installed," a September 1925 Le Mars Sentinel article stated.

The upstairs was designed to hold office buildings, "finished with mahogany," extending the full length of the building.

The basement plans called for "an up-to-date barber shop arrangement, with a shower, tub and Turkish baths and a 40-foot chair space," the article said.

Before this building

When the 1925 building was constructed, the existing building at the site was torn down.

That previous building, also owned by Bolser, had also housed a cafe for years.

In the early 1920s, it was the American Cafe.

Once, a fire started near the furnace, causing an evacuation of the building.

"Ladders were placed up to the windows and the tenants made their egress by that means to the street," a 1921 Sentinel article stated. "The wife of the cook, who escaped scantily clad, was taken to the city building where she obtained warmth and a more adequate amount of clothing."

Peter Bell and Tom Vasilou conducted the cafe business then.

In November 1923, a Le Mars Globe Post article announced a change: "Roy's Coffee Shop, formerly the American Cafe, will be ready to serve light lunches and meals to the public on December 1. Open until midnight each night."

L.R. Hammer was the coffee shop's manager.

Then, in July 1924, Louis D. and C. C. Myers, of Sheldon, took possession of Roy's Coffee shop.

"They will conduct the business in a first class manner," according to a 1924 Le Mars Globe Post article. "They have been in the cafe business for a number of years, and are at present operating the Myers' hotel at Sheldon."

The article announced the cafe would be open 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.

"The business will be ... serving fresh fruits, vegetables and other edibles in season," an advertisement in a 1924 Le Mars Sentinel said.

A fresh start

Bolser moved forward with plans for the new building in 1925, and that September, demolition began.

John Huxtable was hired to build the new structure.

On March 1, 1926, Myers Cafe reopened in the new building.

"Our aim is to give service and to serve lunches and meals that are appetizing and nourishing," the Globe Post advertisement said.

In August 1929, Subway Barbers and Bath Parlors opened below Myers Cafe.

Also that year, a chiropractor named Dr. J. Johnson advertised his office above the cafe.

Myers Cafe was a hub in the community for years, even offering special holiday meals.

"Eat the special turkey dinner at Myers Cafe New Year's Day, 65 cents," a December 1930 advertisement announced.

Changing hands

Myers sold the cafe in October 1944 to Arthur Justi.

"During the 20 years Louis has owned the cafe he has made many improvements and has a modern, up-to-date place of business," a 1944 Sentinel article announced.

The business changed hands several times within the next decade.

By the 1950s, Bill Roberts owned the Justi Cafe.

Then, in May 1951, Walt Johnson purchased it, renaming it Johnson's Cafe.

In 1953, Carol and Jim Kronoveter, of Pipestone, Minn., bought the cafe and changed its name to the Club Cafe, the same name as a cafe the family owned in Minnesota.

The beginning of a local legend

Five years later, in 1959, Don and Maxine Gintert took ownership of the Club Cafe.

One of their daughters, Mary Boehmer, lives in Le Mars and teaches at Franklin Elementary School.

She was about 3 when her parents bought the cafe on Plymouth Street.

"Before that they owned the Town and Country Drive In on Highway 75," Boehmer said.

Her parents both worked at the cafe, and she spent many days there.

At 12, she started waitressing, but before that, she'd hang around the restaurant, sometimes sneaking candy bars or mints from the candy counter.

Her parents renovated the building when they bought it, and they updated it in 1973, but the general layout remained about the same, Boehmer said.

"In the front of the building there was the counter with the individual stools and the cash register," she recalled. "Then there were booths along the side, and in the back there was the party room. We opened that during the noon hour when we were busy."

And the Club Cafe was busy, she said.

"There were really only three restaurants in town at that time," Boehmer said. "And back then, when people had 15 minute coffee break at work, all the businesspeople would go to restaurants and get coffee. You could know what time it was without looking at a clock just by seeing who was in having coffee."

The Club Cafe was known for its pies, she added.

The late Minnie Chamberlain made the cafe's pies, walking the eight blocks to work at 4:30 a.m. every day, Boehmer said.

Along with pies, the Club Cafe was locally famous for its weekly Friday night fish fry.

"It was broasted fish, and we had all-you-can-eat fish frys," Boehmer said. "It was good."

Leona Clement was the Club Cafe's cook during all the years the Ginterts owned it.

"She was there from the day he opened it to the day he sold it," Boehmer said. "We just had one cook the whole time he owned the cafe."

The place to be

As one of the community's main restaurants, the Club Cafe became a gathering point in Le Mars.

When politicians came through town, they often stopped there to chat with locals or shake a few hands.

"Jimmy Carter's son, Chip Carter, came to the restaurant and held a rally there for his dad," Boehmer remembered. "There was Secret Service running all around."

In 1964, the Ginterts opened a second Club Cafe in Sibley. That restaurant was open three or four years, Boehmer said.

"My dad's mom lived in Sibley, and she ran that one," she explained.

Around that time, the Ginterts started Club Cafe Catering.

"My dad always said, 'if you're in the food business, you'll never go hungry,'" Boehmer said

One of her brothers, Mike, stayed in the business, working as a chef in New Mexico.

Don Gintert was president of the Iowa Restaurant Association in 1975.

The next year, he was the first recipient in the U.S. of the Golden Chicken award from McCormack Distributing in Le Mars.

The distributing company awarded the golden broasted chicken honor to the outstanding broaster users, according to a 1970s newspaper article.

"We still have it," Boehmer said.

In 1981, the Ginterts sold the cafe to Diana Gralapp, of Le Mars, who had been an employee at the cafe, and Denise and Sara Gralapp, of Remsen.

They also sold the catering business earlier to a Sioux City firm.

A few years later, in 1984, Tim and Bonnie Rasmussen purchased the Club Cafe.

They announced plans to open that June under the name Timmy's with a new menu, expanding hours to seven days a week, according to a May 1984 Sentinel article.

Today and yesterday

Since then, the building has been home to several businesses.

Today, Klazzy Klozet, the consignment store operated by Bonita Davison, features splashy window displays of hot pink and black.

In 1995 the Happy Hangups framing and art business was in the building at 20 Plymouth Street S.W.

While moving into the building, the Happy Hangups remodelers discovered a piece of the past, Boehmer said.

Stuck in the wall was an old Xerox copy of a menu from the days the Ginterts owned the Club Cafe.

Boehmer said she still has a copy of that menu.

"There was a special every day at the cafe, and on Sunday, mom would type the weekly menu up," she recalled. "It's fun to see the prices -- a hot beef sandwich was 25 cents."


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Great reminder of the past. My parents loved going to the Club Cafe, the Pantry and Hammers. As a youngster, I was never too excited about those cafes but in retrospect, we were lucky to have wonderful diners like that. It would be nice to have a couple of them back. :)

-- Posted by working_class_dog on Thu, Oct 25, 2012, at 2:56 PM

My mom and dad enjoyed being part of the LeMars downtown for many years. Their restaurant and catering service were well thought of by many people. My brothers and sister and I were extremely lucky to be a part of something that was that historical for LeMars. For all of you that have great memories of the Club Cafe.. THANK YOU! My mom and dad would have greatly appreciated the article and I know they greatly appreciated all their customers!

-- Posted by okoboji5 on Fri, Oct 26, 2012, at 3:47 PM

Ah, the memories of all of those years beginning with the Justi Cafe, but especially the Gintert's (I believe there was a pretty little Patty!) and Timmy's. Great food and a great centrally located gathering spot.

Another fine article about LM's past.

-- Posted by donpaulin on Mon, Oct 29, 2012, at 10:25 AM


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