Tag: Small Town (page 2 of 3)

Webster City Part III: Four Women Who Inspire Me With Their Small Businesses

Disclaimer: Deb Brown, Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce invited the North Iowa bloggers to spend a day in Webster City as part of the “Six Bloggers on a Saturday” tour in December 2014. All opinions are my own. Part I & Part II

Ever since the bloggers tour in December, I’ve wanted to return to Webster City. We all have. But Saturday worked well for Beth and I, so we returned for a morning visit. Back in December, Deb coordinated visits to 10+ small businesses within the span of seven hours. We connected with more people and places than I can fit into three blog posts, so I’ll continue to share a little at a time. This post is dedicated to four small business owners who inspire me with their creativity.

R Company

R Company Sara Photo
Tina Fey stated, “It took my three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman” while she hosted the 2015 Golden Globe Awards. I lifted my glass and replied, “I hear you, lady.” Sometimes I joke about writing a fashion blog. It would be terrible because all of my outfits would feature me rotating between my two favorite Raygun graphic tees and that one purple sweater I found for $5.

Sarah Hisler Kopriva owns and operates R Company, an “upscale resale” clothing shop. When we visited in December, she explained her desire to help all of her customers look and feel their best, regardless of age or socioeconomic status. Kopriva has a quick wit that kept me laughing. I appreciate how she aims to give customers her honest opinions when they seek her styling advice. If a certain piece doesn’t look or fit quite right, she’s not afraid provide frank feedback.

Together, Kopriva and Tina Poland, who owns the attached Phairytales Salon, help many young people choose affordable prom and winter dance dresses and prepare for the special occasions. Kopriva and Poland understand the reality that dances like prom can create stress for budget-conscious families or young people whose parents or guardians can’t be as present as they’d like to be.

IMG_4437

I have no hard feelings against fashion. In fact, I totally want to look like Taylor Swift, but can hardly match my pants to my shirt. If you see me wearing an outfit that fits well and does not include a Raygun t-shirt, it was probably the work of a female family member.

Before she passed away, my mom used to keep me on track by helping me coordinate matching outfits and forcing me to go shoe shopping. Kopriva and Poland remind me of the women in my life who took the time to help me shop for my wedding dress and pick out winter boots. I’d be a regular at R Company if I lived closer to Webster City.

If you visit R Company, use the owl-themed bathroom! The other decorations may change with the seasons, but the owls remain.

r company bathroom Collage

Relax the Bath
Denise Mendenhall crafts unique bath and body products from her studio in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She was kind enough to include examples of products in our bloggers tour goody bag, including her popular body butter.

IMG_4435

Bath & Body Works used to all I knew about scented body products. I’ve since become fond of handcrafted lotions and soaps and enjoy our locally-made options in North Iowa. These products feel gentler on our skin and we find the bar soaps last a long time.

On Saturday, Medenhall explained how she looks to the European market for trends. She described their stricter labeling standards and tries to follow suit by adding batch numbers and expiration dates to her products. While many of us are lucky enough to own one KitchenAid mixer, Mendenhall is the proud owner of at least five which she uses to whip-up body butters.

Relax the Bath

Mendenhall mentioned she’s one of only five artisans in Iowa that are members of the Hand Crafted Soap Makers Guild. She dedicates a separate space in her house to soap making and utilizes food grade oils in her products like sustainable palm oil and cupuacu butter. She works long days to meet demand and because she loves her art.

Besides body butter, some of the other products we admired were little bath bombs and colorful bars of soap that incorporated various swirls of colors and shapes. You can find Mendenhall’s products on her Facebook page or SOS Vintage in Webster City.

inTANDEM workspace
Before we visited inTANDEM, I’d never heard of  workspace sharing. Darcy Swon created this space out of a community need for an affordable place for small businesses and start-ups to meet.

Group

People can rent a whole office by the month or a workspace the day with access to inTANDEM’s wireless internet, coffee machine, furniture and bathrooms. Small fees apply for reserving conference rooms and utilizing the printer and copiers. Members are given their own keys so they can access the office at their convenience. Workspace sharing is also a helpful option for people who serve the greater North Iowa/Ames area and have to split their time in different cities.

What struck me most about this space was its contemporary vibe and bright colors. Swon researched colors that stimulate creativity and chose to paint bright orange and Nickelodeon green accent walls. We spent two hours chatting in the big conference room and kicked around blog ideas. As someone who thrives on bright colors, I did feel mentally energized.

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In Mason City, we don’t have a workspace sharing business like inTandem but we do have a lot of space. My friend Sara Broers recently wrote about reframing Mason City’s dead mall space as possibilities. We’re left with a big, dead mall on Federal Ave, an empty K-Mart on 4th, and a mostly empty Southbridge Mall. I like Broers’ encouragement to think outside the box instead of complaining.

I’m encouraged to see Sensory World open in the Southbridge Mall. It’s an indoor play place dedicated to families who have children with special needs. What if we continued to repurpose these empty spaces and consider them for purposes beyond only retail space? I think of indoor markets Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, MN and NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and shared workspaces like inTANDEM.

What small businesses or start-ups are inspiring you right now? Do you have a favorite source for local bath and body products? 

wcbeth and jeni

Beth and I sent our greetings from the little sculpture park on our return visit.

We Tried On Jane Young’s Hats & Gazed at Oculi: Webster City Part II

Disclaimer: Deb Brown, Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce invited me to spend a day in Webster City as part of the “Six Bloggers on a Saturday” tour. All opinions are my own.

Last weekend, I joined six North Iowan bloggers on a one-hour road trip south to Webster City, Iowa for a bloggers tour. Deb coordinated visits to ten local shops, two historical sites, one restaurant, and a drive through a holiday lights display all within the span of seven hours. I broke kringla with the Mayor and found solace in pottery in Part I. This sequel is all about history. Join me on a photo journey through the Jane Young House & Kendall Young Library. If you’re fond of retro hats and grand, old libraries, this post’s for you.

Jane Young House
It’s hard to believe this huge house has moved twice, but it has. The Jane Young house currently rests next to the Kendall Young Library which seems perfectly fitting.

House Deb intro wm

Deb Brown introduces us to the house.

The Women’s Club occupies the house and offers tours by appointment. JoAnn and Loween. . . errr. . . I mean Jane Young and her maid began the tour by introducing themselves.

Jane Young's Maid Wm
Kendall Young was a man who pursued all sorts of adventures in the 1800’s. Originally born in Maine in 1820, he went on to fish off of the coast of Labrador, farm in Wisconsin, and chase the California Gold Rush in covered wagons. Jane described how Young brought his fortune home by tying nuggets into his jacket and pouring gold dust into his boots. His heavy boots made it difficult to walk, so he told others they were specially designed to accommodate his “foot condition.”

Apparently, it worked. No one took his gold and he started a paper business with a friend in Iowa. His path frequently crossed paths with Jane Underdown who he would later marry in Webster City.

Jane Young Collage Wm

Jane Young is pictured throughout the home.

Kendall formed Webster City’s First National Bank where he served as President and built the Jane Young house in 1874. unfortunately, he and Jane only lived here together for fourteen years. Jane struggled with her health and moved to Battle Creek Sanitarium where she lived until her death. As Jane’s maid told us about her final chapter of life, she apologized to Jane for speaking about her death in her presence.

I found a display about the Battle Creek Sanitarium particularly interesting. It listed the facility’s other notable patients such as Mary Todd Lincoln and our 29th President Warren Harding. The display also described some of sanitarium’s treatment procedures including electric shock therapy and a chair that violently shook patients.

We had the most fun in the hat room.

Up the stairs wm

Jane Young herself leads us up the winding staircase.

The photo below doesn’t even begin to do Jane’s hat room justice. This little room contained rows and rows of fantastic, retro hats.

hats models wm

Of course, we had to try them on.

Group with hats wm

Other rooms contained period pieces. I especially liked these big, heavy trunks equipped to hang clothes.

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Kendall passed away in 1896 and willed his estate to Webster City for the purpose of establishing a public library. This came as a surprise to many, as he had once declined a library fundraising request from a woman named Theresa Treat replying, “the ladies would never be able to raise enough money for a proper library.” I suppose we never really do know what kinds of seeds we are planting in other people’s minds.

At the end of the tour, we bid our lovely tour guides adieu and headed next door to visit the library.

The Kendall Young Library
I love libraries. I practically spent my childhood at the library where I would take home bags of books which I poured over by flashlight long after my parents called lights’ out. The Kendall Young Library is majestic. Thanks to the Young’s generous donation (and those from many others), the public library continues to be funded without government support.

Library exterior wm

When we first entered the library, we gazed upwards in wonder. “It’s an oculus!” Amy gleefully exclaimed.

Oculus wm

Oculus

“Is that like an eye?” I asked?

Oculi

Oculi

Children’s Librarian Angie was thrilled to give us a quick tour even though we arrived near closing. I felt like I was at Hogwarts wandering between these grand rows of library shelves.

Library shelves wm

The children’s department is located on the bottom floor. We found it magically decorated with a tree trunk embedded into the wall and a Christmas tree adorned with a sparkly gum drop garlands. The librarians add special touches throughout the department to make young people’s visits extra special. Patrons can find bookmarks crafted by local seniors at the front desk, plus a basket of plastic book bags the librarians carefully fold into tiny triangles.

A large room dedicated to children’s programming is also located downstairs. It’s equipped with sinks for craft projects and blank walls for projecting movies. On the way out, we admired the the Lego Club’s creations. I was especially fond of May’s Cafe.

Library Collage mn

The library also houses a collection of 170 dolls and Native American artifacts. For more information about library programming, visit their Facebook page which staff frequently update.

Coming up next:
A post about meat cutlets & a recipe for my weeknight chicken parmesan & Webster City Part III: Shopping & lunch at Grid Iron Grill. The Every Bar in Mason City Quest will resume soon!

Webster City Part III Teaser Collage

Sneak peek at our lunch at Grid Iron Grill

Special thanks to JoAnn Robb and Loween Getter, our lovely tour guides of the Webster City Women’s Club and Angie Martin-Schwarze of the Kendall Young Library. 

Webster City (Part I): Kringla, Mug Cake & Creating Magic Out Of Small Towns

Disclaimer: Deb Brown, the Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce invited me to spend the day in Webster City as part of the “Seven Bloggers on a Saturday” tour. All opinions are my own

There is no road trip too near or too far to thrill me. This weekend, I joined six North Iowa Bloggers on a road trip on hour south to Webster City. Deb Brown Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in coordinating Hampton, Iowa’s first Franklin County Harvest Bloggers Tour which I participated in this past fall. As a blogger, she is no stranger to participating in bloggers tours, either.

Like Franklin County, I was humbled by the hospitality we received from everyone who hosted us during the tour. Deb coordinated visits with owners of ten unique businesses, lunch at the Grid Iron Grill, tours of the historic Jane Young House, Kendall Young Library, and a drive through the holiday light display at Briggs Woods Campground, all within the span of seven hours.

Strangers entrusted us with their stories. They hoped we would share with our readers and I feel honored to do so. Near the end of our tour, Deb stated something that’s echoed in my mind ever since:

“We create magic out of small towns because we have to.”

I realize no community is perfect, but it’s evident Webster City is home to people creating magic. The individuals we spoke to repeated time and time again that they invest their resources in their hometown because they want to create the type of community in which they want to live. No matter if you live in a large or small community, within or outside of Iowa, I hope you enjoy my three-part series about Webster City. This city girl has a lot to learn from those who create magic in their small towns.

Here’s Part I:  

main street panoramic wm

Webster City, a town of 8,000, has an attractive main street with few vacant storefronts. Living in Mason City, I’m finding myself without a Mexican, Hispanic, or Asian grocery store for the first time in my life. I gleefully shouted out loud when I  noticed a Mexican and Asian grocery store along the main street. When I expressed enthusiasm about finding an Asian grocery, Deb mentioned Webster City has a large Laotian community and added that a Laotian family is preparing to open an egg roll and spring roll shop soon.

We began our tour by gathering at SOS Vintage, a new shop that offers refurbished and vintage items. The only antique stores I’ve visited felt chaotic and dingy, but SOS feels elegant, just as owner Denise Smith stated she wanted it to in a newspaper article published before the store opened in April.

SOS Vintage Exterior

Denise kindly welcomed us to SOS with freshly baked scones and kringla. I was mesmerized by her front counter that was decorated with keys and coins.

Kringla wm

Mayor Doug Getter took the time to personally welcome us to town. He described some of the city’s latest economic development efforts, including an indoor barramundi operation, and recommended Webster City Meat Locker’s which sells some of his favorite bacon.

Of course, we broke kringla, because that’s the cordial thing to do when you meet someone new and there’s kringla.

Kringla Collage

I liked how SOS sells a combination of old and new products. This print caught my eye and I bought it with a gift certificate Denise generously gave to each blogger. Anyone that’s attended a Lutheran college is familiar with the word “vocation”. This screamed vocation and so I bought it because it makes me feel exceedingly happy.

Picture wm
Denise Mendenhall who owns Relax the Bath sells handmade bath products at SOS. I was over the moon when I saw she included soap and kumquat body butter in our goody bags. Jake and I like stocking our bathrooms with locally-made soaps which don’t irritate our skin.

SOS Vintage shares their shop with Timothy and Denise Morgan who craft handcrafted leather goods at Ti-De Creations. They caught me admiring the two purses on the top left shelf and brought them to the counter. Timothy described how he creates the intricate etching by hand. The tubular bag decorated the pink roses is designed for motorcycles. These bags are popular among motorcyclists because they craft them in many colors and sizes larger than the typical motorcycle bags

The Morgans gave us with our choice of key chain. I’m sure no one’s surprised I chose a paw print.

Leather Collage A second local business that features handmade artwork is Produce Station PotteryProduce Station functions as a store, classroom and founder and artist-in-gallery Maureen Saunder’s pottery studio. She founded the studio in 1990 out of the community’s need for a space where people could create and purchase local art.

Intro wm

Maureen reminded me of a mentor I had in the Twin Cities and I felt very much at home.

Pottery Collage One wm

The station’s first artist-in-residence Man Ho “Billy” Cho creates much of the beautiful pottery and raku. Cho originally traveled to Iowa from Hong Kong to attend college. He is currently completing his Masters in Fine Arts degree on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Iowa.

Maureen described how she can identify one of Cho’s pieces because his lids always fit perfectly, which is no small feat in the pottery world. Learn more about Cho at Billy Cho Ceramics.

Pottery on Shelf wm

We followed Maureen on a tour of her studio. I was enthralled with the shelves of paints and dyes.

Pottery Paint

I was also smitten with this painting.

Saw Painting wm

Even though the weather was cloudy, the sun shone just enough to illuminate the stained glass window.

Judith the potter wm

An art garden in the back of the studio features a bonfire pit and, if I remember correctly, a raku kiln.

Deck wm

After our tour, Maureen treated us to our choice of a chocolate or red velvet mug cake served in their beautiful pottery. She described becoming inspired to build a bonfire pit in the pottery garden after attending a bonfire at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis where she enjoyed a similar mug treat.

Mug cake Collage wm

We had to leave for our next stop along the tour soon after we enjoyed our mug cakes. The only downside to the tour was that weren’t able to leisurely browse each store, but Deb wanted to collaborate with as many business owners as possible during our short visit. We all left Webster City wanting to return soon for more in-depth exploration. Sometimes, building curiosity is an underrated accomplishment in itself.

Coming up next: Part II (Small business visits & lunch at Grid Iron Grill), Part II (Jane Young House & Library)

Participating bloggers: Sara of All in an Iowan Mom’s Day, Beth Ann of It’s Just Life, Donna of Donnahup.com, and Amy of Modern Rural Living & Alicia of Fit & Farm

Thanks again to Deb Brown of the Area Chamber, Denise at SOS Vintage, Mayor Getter,Timothy & Denise of Ti-De Creations & Maureen of Produce Station Pottery.

Put A Bird On It: Wreath-Making Class & Fried Mushrooms At West Fork Wharf

Earth be still, I tried to make a craft!

I have all of the patience in the world for putzy baking projects like lefse and pita bread-making, but feel my temper and blood pressure rise when I make crafts. Growing-up, I loved crafts. I spent hours making friendship bracelets and pot holders woven with those stretchy bands. Of course, we 90’s children also loved Shrinky Dinks and those Perler beads we arranged on a plastic grid and melted together with an iron. I’m not sure what changed between now and then, but suspect my fondness of crafts is related to whether or not I can eat the finished product.

This week, I joined some North Iowa Blogger friends at Carlson Tree Farm in Hampton, Iowa and tried to get crafty with holiday wreaths. I noticed Sophie the dog the moment I walked into the wreath lodge and became distracted. Dogs always take precedence over crafts;)

Dog Sleeping wm

I spent a lot of time with Sophie who’s expecting puppies in a couple of months. Sophie got lots of pets while we waited for a wreath station and when I became impatient with my wreath-making skills. Very few things in life make me happier than a dog.

dog Collage

Left photo taken by Beth Ann Chiles.

Beth is one of my first North Iowan friends and frequent partner-in-crime, so it’s fitting we were paired as wreath-making partners (you can read about her experience here). Tree farm owner Michelle provided a wreath tutorial. She showed us how to arrange three types of evergreen into neat, little bundles. Each bundle fits into a space around the wire wreath “mold” where a quick push on the foot pedal clamps the branches together. Finally, the long branch ends get a little snip-snip so the next bundle can fit around the circle.

Putting together these bouquets is a perfectionist’s nightmare. Many thoughts like these filled my mind as I sorted through the evergreen piles:

“Ooo, this branch is a little too wide.”

“This branch is a little too short.”

“This branch is kind of curvy.”

We struggled through our first wreath, but, as you can see, laughed a lot through our trials and errors. Our instructor took one gander at our asymmetrical wreath and commented on its whimsical appearance. This made us giggle because we hypothesized that whimsical was a code word for wild, floofy, or lopsided, which our wreath most certainly was.

Making the wreath with Beth Collage

My wreath had a tail. The Carlson family did not seem too concerned and promised they could disguise it with decorations. I doubted them, but they were right. Our second wreath turned out much better. We had gotten the hang of the process by then. Our instructor explained how her family turns the branches we toss aside into the most beautiful wreathes.

We each paid $35 for our wreaths which included our choice of decorations from ribbons to bells. Beth, their resident bow expert turned my favorite ribbon into a stunning bow which balanced out my wreath’s tail.

Basket of supplies wm

Decorating and coordinating colors are not my strengths, so I added a few pine cones and a bird. When in doubt, put a bird on it. Now, if only I could figure out how to hang the wreath on my front door!

Jeni Wreath Collage

If you knew each of us, you could easily match us with our wreaths. They’re almost like holiday Rorschach tests.

Wreaths wm

Beth and I had arrived at class hungry and missing our afternoon naps (I’m an old soul). We were thrilled to find the Carlson’s stocked their workshop with hot cider & homemade cookies. Even so, we had all worked up an appetite for dinner at West Fork Wharf in Sheffield, Iowa, a restaurant several people have recommended.

West Fork Wharf is located along the town’s main street. Bob and Kim Jensen opened the supper club in June 2013. The inside of the restaurant feels both classy and comfortable. I found it fascinating to learn Bob’s hosted the local fishing show Fishing In The Midwest for over 20 years and that he constructed the tables and bar from the community high school’s old gym floor.

Several friends suggested we order the fried mushrooms. West Fork’s are unlike any I’ve tried before. The batter was thin and crispy and the mushrooms almost melted in my mouth. They’re served with ranch and the group favorite, a sauce resembling a combination of barbecue sauce, honey mustard & french dressing.

The cheese curds (or cheese balls, as they’re often called in North Iowa) had a delightfully chewy texture. Of course, they were served with ranch too. I mean, we are in Iowa, right? Both appetizers were fried well so that neither were greasy.

West Fork Wharf serves good ranch. I explain my definition of good vs. bad ranch in this post

WFW Food Collage

I ordered the fish sandwich for my entrée. The Chef toasted the sandwich bun and battered the fish in a thin coating, similar to the fried mushrooms. It tasted very fresh and I liked its moist, flaky texture. Most sandwiches come with the restaurant’s version of french fries called “propellers,” battered potatoes shaped like propellers. My dining companions’ green salads looked fresh. Next time I’d pay a few extra dollars for the fish platter my friend Amy ordered which comes with a salad and side.

The evening steak special appeared to be a popular choice. I saw many people enjoying large steaks drizzled with homemade cheese sauce and what looked like sautéed mushrooms. You can certainly find healthier options on the menu, but I was in the mood for splurging.

West Fork Wharf is a gem. The restaurant’s emphasis seems to be on scratch-made food prepared with thought and priced reasonably. The city of Sheffield is located about 30-minutes from our Mason City home and I’d like to return with Jake. If you find yourself in Franklin County, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend stopping here for dinner.

Adult craft projects may test my patience, but I enjoy new experiences like this wreath class. Next month, we’re taking a group painting class from Creative Spirits of Ames, Iowa where an artist will walk us through one painting, step-by-step. There might not be a big friendly dog like Sophie to calm my nerves, but at least there will be wine.

*Thank you to the Carlson family for showering us with warm hospitality. 

Reader Question: Do you prefer crafting, cooking, or both? I’m curious if any of my non-crafty readers have taken a group painting & sipping class and how their painting turned-out. Does wine help or hurt? 

A Cathartic Bloody Mary & Cheese Frenchies: My First Wartburg Homecoming

This weekend we heeded the “U-Rah-Rah Rah” cries of Wartburg College’s homecoming.

When Jake and I drove down Bremer Avenue in Waverly, Iowa I percolated with emotion, for this was my first visit back, since graduating in 2007. My stomach felt strange when I thought about how my mom was alive the last time I was on campus, cheering for me as I reached for my diploma.

We met a friend I used to work with at the college’s Writing/Reading/Speaking Lab (WRSL) at Duo’s, a coffee shop built after graduation. Since we were the only two former consultants in attendance, we giggled about how we were the smallest WRSL reunion in history.

I think it’s safe to speak for the other WRSL consultants when I say that we loved our jobs helping students improve their paper and speeches. Many of us became good friends who worked together for years. I don’t believe any one hired as a consultant ever left before graduation. Once a WRSL’er, always a WRSL’er.

Although I majored in Public Relations, we never discussed social media. Wartburg joined the Facebook network in 2005 and no one seemed to foresee the role it would play in business marketing.

Only once it ever occurred to me to take a picture of food. I wrote my friend’s name Leo on a plate with condiments at Perkins. Our early flip phone cameras took horrible photos and most of us lacked the internet plans to share them.

Now, I juggle several social media platforms and find myself saying, “My how times have changed,” more often than I’d like.

I used to think homecoming activities were unbearably cheesy. I enjoyed some of the festivities like the variety show, but would hardly say I “bled orange” (our school color), as they would say. This weekend, seven years later, I experienced the true spirit of homecoming along with alumni of all ages. Signs everywhere said “Welcome back!” and I felt like I had returned home.

Our mission in Waverly was simple. Drink at Joe’s Knight Hawk Lounge and eat at the East Bremer Diner.

Oh Joe’s. We never got too well acquainted, did we? Joe’s Knight Hawk is the bar perched on the edge of campus where the harder-core partiers gravitated. If something crazy happened, it probably went down at Joe’s. Others simply went to Joe’s to eat chicken wings and dance the night away.

I appeared at Joe’s twice. I wasn’t much of a drinker and hardly a dancer, preferring the company of friends watching Scrubs or playing candy poker. Looking back, I do wish I spent more time at Joe’s, but hindsight’s 20/20.

Joe's

The first thing I noticed was that the bar and pole along the dance floor was gone. Considering the state of most of the students who hoisted themselves up to dance around the pole, I wasn’t surprised.

We ordered Bloody Marys which was fitting since I drank my first Bloody Mary here during my senior year. I remember watching the bartender in utter fascination as he added Worcestershire sauce and black pepper to my first, non-fruity cocktail which I liked at first taste.

The beverages were so cheap, we struggled to drink our $10 credit card minimum. So, we walked a mile down Bremer Avenue to the East Bremer Diner. The cold wind whipped across the Cedar River.

River watermarked

Waverly’s main street is vibrant and well-kept. I was happy to find that Dell’s Diner & Asian Garden Restaurant are still open.

main street watermarked

I’ve dreamed of returning to the East Bremer Diner for years. My family and I dined here after our first campus tour.

For lovers of the Diner, this is a beautiful sight.

Salad Dressings watermarked

For those who choose a side salad, the server will bring a big bowl of shredded lettuce and quad of homemade salad dressings in squirt bottles. There’s french, thousand island, ranch and creamy garlic. Use one, or mix and match them all.

My favorite has always been the creamy garlic. Your server will initially identify each dressing, but, in case you forget, the creamy garlic is pinker than the ranch and paler than the thousand island. I used to buy an occasional jar of this dressing for personal home enjoyment. My second favorite is the french, which I normally don’t like. The Diner’s is tangy without being too sweet.

This ritual of starting with a big bowl of shredded iceburg lettuce and squirt bottles of salad dressing an endearing gimmick we always looked forward to. I posted these salad photos on social media and received so much interaction, I’d say it brings back fond memories for many Wartburg students.

Diner Salad Collage

I ordered Cheese Frenchies for lunch. Frenchies are cubes of crispy-coated, fried grilled cheese made with American cheese (and sometimes mayonnaise) and the Diner’s the only place I’ve seen them.

Cheese Frenchies originated at the chain King’s Food Host in Nebraska, Omaha in the early 1960’s. They’ve since fallen out of style, though friends have also spotted them at Don & Millie’s in Omaha & Drake Diner in Des Moines.

Cheese Frenchies watermarked

Jake chose the Beef Submarine with onions and mushrooms. I giggled each time he repeated the entire word “submarine.”  This sandwich was massive and the bread tasted fresh.

Beef Sandwich watermarked

The Diner’s manager, also a Wartburg graduate, saw my tweet about the Diner and visited our table to personally greet us. He said that the menu is practically the same as it was seven years ago, minus a few of the less popular items. We gave him kudos for being so on top of the Diner’s social media while actively managing the restaurant during lunch rush.

Before we drove back to Mason City, I asked Jake to take a photo of me and the Wartburg sign. Funny how I was too nerdy to go to Joe’s Knight Hawk in college, yet too cool to pose by the sign.

Wartburg Sign watermarked

Former President Jack Ohle’s catchphrase referred to Wartburg College as a “tapestry” of which all of us students were the threads.

I’ll spare you the Wartburg song and peppy motto “Be Orange!”, but I will leave you with one final “U-Rah-Rah-Rah. Catharsis is best experienced with Bloody Mary’s and Cheese Frenchies.

What was your school’s catchphrase? And did you have a favorite college town restaurant?

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