Biz Buzz: Baxter Cafe was a family affair
“We did it together is the best way to put it,” Kevin Stumpf said, noting it was a family effort to make everything work with Marilyn and the family. He said it was a life trip with all of them.
BAXTER — Kevin Stumpf, former owner of Baxter Cafe and Catering, said he is both excited and apprehensive about the future after selling the longtime restaurant in Baxter.
For the past 2.5 years, Stumpf said he and his wife Marilyn decided it was time for “the old guy” to hang up the spatula. Stumpf, who will be 67, tore his rotator cuff last summer and fell on the ice in November. Customers may have noted Stumpf was working with one arm in a sling in March. A surgery was planned to repair the damage.
Along the way to finding a new buyer, a deal fell through last fall and other “low-ball offers” came through but waiting appears to have paid off with the sale to Ippin Ramen and Sushi providing the sale they were looking for, Stumpf said.
The Baxter Cafe closed March 20.
The Ippin Ramen and Sushi owners are coming out of Wisconsin and have the Waite Park Ippin Ramen restaurant, Stumpf said.
“They really liked the restaurant and wanted the opportunity to have sushi,” Stumpf said of the Baxter location along Highway 210 and near Golf Course Drive, noting the size of the cafe will allow a sushi bar.
“You’ll be able to go up and watch them make it right in front of you,” Stumpf said.
Efforts are currently underway to remodel the restaurant for the new concept.
Stumpf said his son is getting out of the food industry and they turned down catering jobs knowing the future wasn’t certain with the restaurant. Business is there, he noted, looking at the now closed Northwind Grille and the Sawmill Inn as eateries that weren’t viable not because they didn’t have customers but because they couldn’t find the staff to operate. The pandemic changed many things. As restaurants faced additional challenges in reaching customers, employees also found a lot of opportunities for work outside the hospitality industry. Stumpf said his employees shouldn’t have any trouble finding new jobs, and one cook with experience in California with ramen is expected to be staying on as well. Stumpf praised his staff, cooks, servers and dishwasher for their hard work.
After 29 years at the restaurant, Stumpf doesn’t plan to slow down entirely and they have no plans on leaving the lakes area. He has credits toward his master’s degree and could do some substitute teaching. He said he wants to spend time with his granddaughter and to enjoy going places with his wife.
Being successful with the restaurant has been a group effort, Stumpf said.
“We did it together is the best way to put it,” Stumpf said, noting it was a family effort to make everything work with Marilyn and the family. He said it was a life trip with all of them.
“We are definitely going to miss our customers,” Stumpf said. “We are going to miss our friends.”
They’ve seen customers come in on first dates, get married, have kids and now those kids came in during their dates.
“That’s the kind of stuff we are going to miss,” Stumpf said.
RENEE RICHARDSON, Brainerd Dispatch managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz .