Danced around a dream

We just finished a fantastic and long overdue vacation to points west. We had visiting my brother-in-law and his family as a focal point, but most everything else was improvised which is how we like to travel. No master plan, no strict timelines. That was mostly how we went on vacation growing up and I hated it. Other than saying, “We’re heading to Fort Collins, Colorado for a few days”, we took everything else as it came. I posted a sort of travelogue using modern technology primarily for us to be able to look back on our trip. As it turns out, people enjoyed following us along on our escapades and commented along the way, so that added to the fun.

Each night we estimated how far we wanted to drive before we thought we’d reach a good stopping point. In some cases, we called ahead, in others we just walked into a likely looking place.

This brought us to a town called Macon, Missouri and one of the highlights of my trip.

By the time we reached Macon, we had already seen and discounted a couple of motels in the only other decent sized town to the west so we were tired and hungry. As it was our last night on the road, we wanted to have a sit down dinner where someone would serve us as opposed to another Subway (We hit several along the way for lunch). We drove around town a bit and found there were a lot of fast food joints and a couple of corner cafes which were packed. We almost drove out-of-town when we came upon the Northern Star restaurant. It was on the late end of dusk so the fact that the lights weren’t on out front just yet didn’t register with us. The door was unlocked so we went in. We found a place with stone floors, simple but tasteful decor, and a large buffet. There was only one large group of people in the place and no hostess in sight so we waited until an older gentleman wearing a John Deere cap and T-shirt came out from the kitchen and seated us. Didn’t think too much of it at the time, but then he came back to our table and took our order. When I said I wanted the buffet, he said, “I’ll go put on some fresh catfish for you.”

Long story short, he was the owner and was down two people. Not even a dishwasher on duty. The man was running the restaurant by himself.

Once the large group found this out, and once they saw other people coming into the place (the lights were off on purpose as it turned out to discourage patrons), two of the ladies at the table jumped up. One grabbed a pad and started taking orders, one served drinks. By this time, we were almost finished with our meals and I did what any guest in a small town would do; grabbed our plates and took them to the back. There was the owner/cook/hostess/waitress/dishwasher huddling over a grill with a couple of other locals. I said, “Excuse me, just heard what’s going on, I’m going to put these over here…And, I do some cooking, I can drop my family at the hotel and come back and give you a hand if you want.” He gave it some serious thought, but looked out at the dining room and said, “Naw, things are clearing out. I’m going to shut down soon. I think we can handle it. However, I am looking to sell the place…” And that so far is as close as I came to cooking at a restaurant.

Turns out, the guy built this place himself about 3 years ago. His wife, left him about 2 years ago. Reading between the lines, I surmised she did most of the front of the house work so he was out of his element. I felt really sorry for him. He put his heart and soul into the place, not only did he build the restaurant from the ground up, he built a residence above it, so it is his whole life. No sense speculating what happened to the wife, but I could not help but ask, “So. What are you looking to get for it?” Thinking a small town place nowhere near a highway could not be anything like what the places go for around here. “Oh, I need to at least get back what I’ve put into it; 800-850…” That’s thousand. The man needed at least $800,000 to recoup the million he originally put into it minus what he made on the place in the course of 3 years. In small town Missouri.

So to wrap this thing up, I came very close to working at a restaurant for an evening, and got a serious offer to buy the place lock, stock, and barrel. At the end of the day, and as usual, nothing came of it.

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