BEMIDJI -- On the same day that owners of The Cabin Coffee House and Café said they were closing the downtown Bemidji business, an announcement of a new restaurant in the same location was made.
Both happened via Facebook posts on Saturday, Jan. 2. First, a statement and video by brothers Brett and Derek Leach appeared on The Cabin’s page. They are owners of Brothers Group Restaurants, which also runs Bar 209, Red Stu Breakfast Bar and the Turtle River Chophouse. They cited Minnesota COVID-19 restrictions for an insurmountable loss of revenue as their reason for closing The Cabin, and asked supporters to urge elected officials to lift those restrictions.
Later on Saturday, a video on the Heroes Rise Coffee Company page announced plans to open Third Street Station in the same location.
The VanGrinsven family opened Heroes Rise Coffee a few months ago at the corner of Bemidji Avenue and 15th Street, and recently added a second coffee shop location in Crookston. Owners are Jeff VanGrinsven, his wife, Joan, their son, Matt and daughter-in-law Charly.
Another son, T.J. VanGrinsven, and his wife Chelsey are joining those four in ownership of Third Street Station. T.J. and Chelsey first met at The Cabin, got engaged there last April and were married last month. They live in Williston, N.D.
Jeff VanGrinsven said Third Street Station will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, with Carissa Angelocci heading up the kitchen. She is manager of the Heroes Rise location near the Bemidji State University campus.
“Third Street Station will have its own identity,” Jeff said. “It’s going to have a higher end menu. The stuff that we’re going to be serving will hopefully be totally different than what anybody else serves. Once we get back to a normal (post-COVID) life, on Friday nights we’ll go back to the old style Cabin where they used to have a band for date nights and stuff like that.”
The space is being renovated and the owners expect it to open in February. “We definitely want to be open by Valentine’s Day if not before,” Jeff said.
The Cabin opened in 2000 with owners April, Harry and Noemi Aylesworth and Tim Lundberg. Harry and Noemi, who still own the building, bought out Lundberg and their daughter April a few years later. The Pemberton family took over in 2013, and the Leach brothers took over in 2015.
Noemi Aylesworth said she sympathizes with all restaurant owners as they face pandemic challenges.
“My heart aches for all the restaurant owners throughout Minnesota,” Noemi said. “Unless a person has been a business owner they have no idea how hard it is to make payroll and be responsible for employees. The struggle is even more real now with the government closure.”
The Leach brothers said their businesses have sustained a 56.5% loss in comparison to 2019, and 89% of its employees have been laid off during the pandemic. They said The Cabin has been able to retain only 16% of its normal sales during the pandemic.
“To say that this year has been tough or troubling is definitely an understatement,” Brett Leach said in the video. “It's beyond out of control, a lot of the aspects of it, and so there really is no viable financial way to continue that business. It just doesn't make sense. The financial losses are just unbearable.”
They said being limited to takeout orders only at their establishments has been frustrating.
“The truth of it is, takeout gives us more time to hopefully see this thing through,” Derek Leach said. “It helps us pay some bills. It doesn't cover the bills by any means. We're asking you to support reopening restaurants.”
Their Facebook post read: “In setting out to record a statement of closure, we recognized that many of you may not know the full extent of the impact of Minnesota's current restrictions. The Cabin is not the only restaurant to be affected. Over 100 restaurants throughout the state have already closed in 2020 and many more are at the brink of shuttering their doors forever.”