Small Town Café That Can: Booming Businesses Thanks to Twitter and Pie | Characteristic


But lately, from her seat at the cafe table where she meets friends most mornings for coffee and an omelet, she has witnessed a setback. City dwellers spend their money in his hometown. “The cafe managed to get them here,” she said. “We tend to go this way,” to Lincoln and the Omaha subway, where her nieces and many former students live and shop.

Newman Grove, a town of 700 people straddling Madison and Platte counties, has no obvious platform for economic development and tourism. It is not the hometown of a famous author; there is no passing National Scenic River, no towering rock monument on the horizon.

Business is booming for the Newman Grove City Cafe and spreading to its neighbors, thanks to loyal locals but also a growing urban audience. A social network of eastern Nebraska foodies has turned this isolated cafe into a destination, even though it’s a two-hour drive from Lincoln or Omaha and too far away to be spotted on Google Street View.

But it’s Dawn and Adam Witchell’s adopted home. It was native Omahans who unexpectedly transformed the city’s main artery, Hale Avenue, into a two-way street for commerce.

In 2020, when many restaurants closed, the City Cafe achieved record sales with 30% growth over the previous year. He will beat that sales record again this year.

The Witchells attract cars full of people from the outside, boost business by selling pies in Omaha and beyond, and share the wealth by sending their customers to the streets to explore nearby retailers.

Their success is a testament to the reach of social media, the romance of road travel, and the fact that cooperation – and a sweet slice of lemon meringue – can bridge the growing divide between rural and urban Nebraska.

David, a financial advisor, and Megan, a commercial banker, met the college friend of David, a commodity broker who lives 24 miles away in Columbus. It was the first “hike” they had intended to take since Megan had heard about coffee on Twitter.

So on the very Friday that Nelson met his usual 8am coffee group at the cafe for “therapy” – discussing family activities and home canning tips – David and Megan Holtorf drove north- west 120 miles from Omaha for lunch.

“I just liked the story,” she said. “I come from a very small town. I want to see places like this succeed.

Another four hour round trip for lunch? In an age when you can work from anywhere, you can also take a lunch break anywhere.

David took a working tour on the way up, and Megan took in the scenery: horses, wagging their tails in the shade of a sagging barn; the flash of the yellow breast of a skylark passing in front of the windshield; acres of endless corn bending in the breeze.

After lunch, they lingered at their corner table as the crowded dining room emptied, the doorbell ringing every time it opened. Their hamburger baskets were empty, but the City Cafe experience was not over. The Holtorfs took away a few goodies: a shell of gooey cinnamon buns and a stack of generously sliced ​​scotcheroos. Their friend, David Franzen, has vowed to return; his office is nearby in Humphrey, and he wants to start picking up lunch for the team.

“You can’t find this anymore,” Franzen said. “Every town has a Casey’s, and once you get a Casey’s you lose a coffee.”

To get there, the Witchells swam upstream of the Nebraska Urban Migration.

Privately, they gave him three years to pass or fail.

In 2014, they resigned their jobs in Boys Town, pulled their daughter out of Millard Public Schools, and spent $ 35,000 to buy the cafe from its longtime owner.

Adam takes care of the grill, flips an egg too easily, and drapes two slices of bacon over a burger. Dawn squeezes the sriracha mayonnaise onto a toast and wraps it in checkered charcuterie paper.

Seven years and a second daughter later, they work side by side on a busy Friday, and sometimes back to back, in the tight space between the grill and the prep counter, while the waitress takes phone orders and prepares baskets. of fried cheese balls. .

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