Windom's River City Eatery doing bustling businessNew business opened its doors a little more than two months ago
WINDOM — Where can you get a fresh-baked cinnamon roll and a cup of cappuccino for breakfast, sample the Chicken Dance and homemade pie for lunch and enjoy a hearty serving of spaghetti and meatballs with a glass of wine for dinner amidst the ambience of live music? At the River City Eatery, of course.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WINDOM — Where can you get a fresh-baked cinnamon roll and a cup of cappuccino for breakfast, sample the Chicken Dance and homemade pie for lunch and enjoy a hearty serving of spaghetti and meatballs with a glass of wine for dinner amidst the ambience of live music?
At the River City Eatery, of course.
The quaint café, with its free Wi-Fi, coffee bar, homemade soups, sandwiches and pies and meetery (party/conference room) has been a great hit in downtown Windom since it opened in late October.
Owners Mari Harries and Sarah Cartwright combined to share their love of cooking, baking and musical connections to revive the building that had been home to Mix Bakery on the courthouse square since 1949.
The women had longed to bring a down-to-earth yet trendy café to their hometown, and with the bakery standing vacant for three years, they found the ideal place to start their business.
The two purchased the building shortly after taking a walk-through in January. Initially thinking it required just some paint and a few touch-ups, they quickly learned it needed a whole lot more.
While professionals were hired to install all new plumbing and electrical, the women relied on the help of their family and friends for much of the dirty work. The building was practically gutted and new walls were constructed to form the kitchen, meetery and restrooms. Behind the coffee bar, Harries points to the exposed brick discovered in their process to remove the plaster from the wall. The brick was a pleasant surprise, she said.
“I am indebted to my dad, mom, friends and husband for the rest of my life,” Harries said. They, along with Cartwright and her family, “spent many hours” fixing up the place — right up until the week before the River City Eatery opened.
“That’s what makes it fun though — it literally is our blood, sweat and tears,” Harries said.
Retaining the original floor and ceiling from the building’s era as a bakery, Harries continued the theme with the furnishings — finding the tables in the meetery at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Mankato, recycling and repurposing other décor, and bringing back the chandeliers after they were offered by John and Linda Mix. The iconic Mix Bakery sign is now wall art, along with a collection of local artwork and photography. Harries said they hope to rotate artwork to give local people an opportunity to display their talents.
Despite all of the work poured into the building, Harries said creating the menu was one of the hardest things she and Cartwright had to do.
“I wanted everything to be very familiar,” she said. While she calls the offerings a “limited menu,” she explained there will be both daily and seasonal specials. Items are all made with fresh ingredients and Harries is proud of their home-made offerings ranging from red pepper feta dip and pesto hummus to the Greek Geek salad, River City Meatball sandwich and Pesto Party pasta dish.
Harries said she and Cartwright hope to continue to grow the business, eventually being open daily and offering Saturday morning specials like egg bakes or French toast.
The eatery is a dream come true for Harries, who returned to Windom six years ago with hopes of opening a café. At the time, she said, no one wanted to loan money to a recent college graduate with a dream and a business plan.
Not about to give up, she went to work for a traveling catering company hired primarily by professional golf tournaments.
“I’d been working in the food industry since I was 18, but most of my management experience came from catering,” Harries said. She loves to cook, and Cartwright, who returned to Windom after graduating with a music degree last spring, is the baker. Cartwright, along with Bruce Boldt, a member of the local Bluegrass Association, coordinates the live musical entertainment offered every Saturday evening at the eatery.
The River City Eatery, 344 10th St., is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The meetery can be reserved, and has been used so far for Christmas parties, book club meetings, bridal parties and business meetings. Reservations may be made by calling (507) 832-8383.
The café can also be found online at www.rivercityeatery.com and on Facebook.