OT: The Spink Cafe
With all the consternation, mock gives the feel good story of the week.
Feel free to move it, this isn't earth shaking news.
Customers raise the roof for Spink Cafe
By Tim Gallagher Journal staff writer
SPINK, S.D. -- Customers are raising money for a new roof and porch at the Spink Cafe in hopes the staff will continue offering the same old food and service.
It is the center of activity in this unincorporated Clay County community of eight.
"There are four people on that side of the road, four people on this side," says John "Jr." Otten, a former farmer who owns and operates the cafe with his wife Diane.
"When the cafe closed before Junior and Diane bought it, we met for morning coffee and played cards in the gas station across the street," says Carol Welch of Spink.
The catch? The gas station was closed. Had been for years.
"We'd heat the place with a propane heater," she says. "There weren't enough chairs. People would come and stand. We just wanted a place to be together."
Welch got her wish nine years ago when the Ottens bought the cafe site, a classic three-story building on the corner of Highway 48 and 473rd Avenue. The place, built in 1925, once housed a general store, a Post Office, a theater, and a locker plant, among others.
Ted Waitt filmed a Gateway Computers commercial here once. The locals waited for hours for his arrival, passing the time playing cards. A photo appeared in Time Magazine.
Local legend has it Jesse James and his gang may have eaten or stayed here as well.
With a place so rich in local lore, it's important to keep it on the map. So, Welch and a committee have taken upon themselves to help raise $10,000 or so to give the structure some attention. Some towns fix up the ball park, others restore a grand old theater. Spink is working for the only hub it still has -- Spink Cafe.
"Most people think of it as a community building, even though it's privately owned," says Don Abraham.
The Spink Cafe Community Committee hosts a freewill fish fry with broasted chicken from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 21. Donations will be taken that day to help the Ottens get the place fixed.
It means that much, according to Lisa Welch, who notes that send-off and welcome home celebrations for two area soldiers deployed to the Middle East were held here.
"The fact the community is coming together for this is a very nice surprise," says Diane Otten, who cooked here years ago before buying the place. "I like the idea that it's a place for the community to come together."
There is coffee, breakfast and Spink Rummy (just rummy played by folks in Spink) before noon here.
"There's also a lot of bull," says John Otten, looking down. "That's why I wear cowboy boots."
John can often be found at the grill, making his famed Spink Burger, a double-patty sandwich featuring the works for $5.95. Diane makes pie and prepares specials for three nights per week, ranging from spaghetti (Wednesday), broasted chicken (Thursday), ribs (Friday), fish (Friday during Lent) and prime rib (Saturday).
When the kitchen closes some weekends, locals clear the tables and start dancing or singing. Occasionally, they host a band. Other nights it's karaoke. That fits with an Elvis theme, as the place features 200 or so Elvis items on display, including clocks, swinging figures, giant photos and more. There's even a street sign letting diners know they're eating on Elvis Boulevard.
Elvis been here?
"Not that I know of," says Diane, smiling.
Locals keep working on plans for the fish fry later this month, hoping to secure funds for the roof project before the snow flies. It would be a blessing for motorists who often pass though Spink on their way to nearby Vermillion, Yankton or Sioux City.
"We've had a lot of people stop and ask for the nearest gas station, which is eight miles away" Diane says. "One man stopped and I gave him directions. He came back the next day and gave me a dozen roses."
The story elicits a laugh from John, who is heading back to the grill. "I still don't know if that's the whole story," he says.
Stories are a rich part of this cafe. If the storytellers have their say, the ending of the story is nowhere near.
The Spink Cafe in downtown Spink, S.D. (population 8) opens at 8 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For information, call (605) 356-2663.
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