BRAINERD – The restaurant has gone by many names over the years, but there won’t be a new one this time around.
The demolition work left the South Sixth Street landmark with a missing wall and a dollhouse view of shelves and coffee carafes on the counter with waiting red cubicles on the other side. With the building razed, the corner location has a new business underway, which could be in place this fall.
Just in the 2000s, the small restaurant was KatiAnn’s Diner, Dairy Sweet and more recently Bobbie’s Kitchen. Roberta Jane Lewis bought the restaurant in 2005. It was closed in 2020 and put up for sale.
The small restaurant, which could seat around 38 people and more at the counter, is perhaps known as Lou’s Dairy Way, owned by Lou and Alice Carlson.
On a sunny, cool day last week, a trailer was full of debris, kitchen appliances were pulled to the side, and the whole area smelled of ketchup from the tiny, broken packets that fell under the bobcat. And a new venue is in the works for the corner of the 1200 block of South Sixth Street.
Business owner Todd Sutton will install an ice and water vending machine at the site. The permanent ice machine would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning that at any time of the day or night, customers could get ice for the coolers or by bag on demand with the water.
Sutton said customers can bring their own coolers and select how much ice they want to buy. Or people can select a bag size and the machine will deliver the bag and the ice. The same goes for water, with customers selecting how much water they want to buy. Sutton said the call is the convenience of it. He sees clients from residences, businesses, construction crews and the traveling public who come to the Lake District for entertainment.
Sutton said he had a friend who installed two of the machines in Williston, North Dakota, and found positive feedback and business for the machine. Sutton said the lake region’s growing population and strong outdoor appeal for recreation have combined to make Brainerd an intriguing location for his business. He said someone bringing their boat to Crosslake can just pull over, get the ice they need for their stay, and be on their way. The ice and water machine, which measures 8 feet by 26 feet, is built to order in Georgia and will consist of two pieces to be placed on a foundation at the site.
Sutton’s goal is to have the machine ready and operational in the spring, but it could open as soon as this fall. He noted that another attraction for the large automated ice machine comes from storms, when power is interrupted. His plans include a backup generator so he can provide ice and water as long as the town’s water supply is running.
Sutton said he was from Blackduck and lived in Princeton for 22 years before moving to North Dakota. So he understands the area, the weather and the appeal of the Lake District and thinks it can be a good business opportunity and one that will give him the opportunity to give back as well.
“I want to have fun with it,” he said. “I want to donate to Teen Challenge, or a religious organization or a parade. Maybe someone, the city, has a big welcome in the spring of the year and I want to donate…that’s what me and my wife are.
RENEE RICHARDSON, editor of Brainerd Dispatch, can be reached at 218-855-5852 or
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