Business Spotlight: C&N Cafe

The C&N Café, conveniently located on Highway 12, is a staple of this community’s diet.

C&N Cafe (CMYK)

By Amy Wolff | For The Record

The C&N Café, conveniently located on Highway 12, is a staple of this community’s diet. Operating seven days a week and serving full breakfast and lunch menus, this locally owned café offers convenience and variety to Hettinger’s patrons.

This building has a rich history seeing everything from a car-hop based eatery known as the Knotty Pine in its early days to a Chinese buffet more recently to the little café that it is now. It came into the hands of Cindy Abrahamson and Nick Schaefer February 22, 2007 at which time they changed the name to the C&N Cafe.

Structurally the building didn’t require many changes. However, the owners elected to open up the counter space that today can be seen housing Cindy’s delicious home-baked pastries including an assortment of pies, cookies, and rolls. All new equipment and dishware were purchased to better suite their specific needs and they opened exactly one month to the day of purchase, eight years ago.

Nick Schaefer sold his share of the business just one year after its opening so that he could spend more time with his family. Ms. Abrahamson took upon the challenge of being the sole operator in stride however, as she has lived her whole life in this business and knows it well. Along with the C&N Café, she previously managed the Palace Café and Truckstop Café and owned the Busted T Café all once located in Lemmon, South Dakota.

Even so, it is not without help that Ms. Abrahamson is able to run this successful business. She currently has 12 employees, 5 of whom are full or near-fulltime status, including waitresses, Emma Melling and Wendy Witt; kitchen assistant, Hope Killough; dishwasher, Bill Erhart; as well as Beth Munro who works each position as needed.

Along with dedicated staff, something that the C&N Café prides itself on is the variety of dishes served there. Sundays are an especially popular day as they offer a full salad bar with any of the dinners which include three homemade specialties hand-chosen by Ms. Abrahamson for that day. Other specials seen throughout the month include a soup and sandwich bar every other Friday, a taco bar once a month and the occasional chicken and ribs bar.

Last month many patrons enjoyed celebrating the one day a year that C&N extends their hours from a 4:00 p.m. closing time to 8:00 p.m., Valentine’s Day. If the prime rib, 16 ounce t-bones and jumbo shrimp aren’t enough to convince you to put it on the calendar for next year, the full salad bar and specialty desserts certainly should be.

Along with this romantic holiday, the staff there especially enjoy the hunting seasons that bring in hundreds of new faces and keep things moving along during the colder quieter months of the year. It is during these months that one of Ms. Abrahamson’s favorite aspects of the job really gets put to the test. When asked about her favorite facets of owning the café, she responded that she greatly enjoys the cooking and baking but also thrives on the challenge of, “Seeing how many [people] I can get through in a day,” a number that is often more than anyone could imagine this small building being able to house.

Her employees also enjoy the varying aspects of the restaurant business. Much like Ms. Abrahamson, Hope Killough takes pleasure in the hands-on cooking aspect, while Emma Melling who is the regular opening waitress, finds joy in seeing her regulars who themselves seem to enjoy keeping Emma on her toes. “I suppose the variety is my favorite part, because I’m not doing the same thing every day. There’s always different people, so that’s fun,” added Beth Munro when asked about her various duties.

It doesn’t appear that Ms. Abrahamson will be hanging up her apron any time soon either. When asked about retirement she laughed and said she would retire once, “someone buys this place or maybe when Amy buys this place.” I had to laugh too, knowing that even as one the 12 employees she currently has I will likely never be ready for the honorable commitment that she has made to the restaurant business.

The C&N Café opens Monday through Saturday at 5:45 a.m., Sundays at 6:45 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. daily. Breakfast is served until 11:00 a.m. at which time the lunch menu takes over. Be sure to stop in during any of these times to visit the friendly staff and enjoy Cindy’s home-made meals and goodies.