By LeAnn R. Ralph
GLENWOOD CITY — When Bonnie Pelikan was a little girl growing up in Minnesota, she spent many Saturdays at the gas station with her dad.
Back when gas stations had full service islands, she learned how to clean a customer’s windshield and how to pump gas.
When she was in high school, the small independently owned gas stations started to close their doors, and Pelikan began to dream of one day owning a remodeled gas station.
And now that dream has come true in the form of Bonnie’s Cafe at 106 W. Oak Street in Glenwood City.
“As a young child, I have memories of Dad changing the oil and fixing cars in the service bay, much like the dining room of the now ‘Bonnie’s Cafe’ … I remember him telling me to stay out of the bay, because of the carbon monoxide fumes,” Pelikan said.
“Much of the history of the old gas stations has disappeared with demolition to make way for the big gas stations of today,” she said, noting that the loss of those little gas stations and their history leaves a space in small towns that the larger, corporately owned convenience stores cannot fill.
Pelikan is not alone, of course. Many people of a certain age will have memories of Texaco stations, Standard stations, Mobil stations, Conoco stations, Phillips 66 — and many others — and the people who owned them, pumped their gas, cleaned their windshields and fixed their cars.
Pelikan opened Bonnie’s Cafe on May 26.
“There was no remodeling done to the existing building. It was an existing restaurant prior. The building sat empty during the winter before I purchased it,” she said.
Pelikan, who has lived in the Boyceville area for many years, has more than 20 years of experience in restaurant, deli, and convenience store management.
One of the aspects of Bonnie’s Cafe that Pelikan loves is how much it is tied into the history of Glenwood City.
Part of the décor of the cafe includes historical pictures of downtown Glenwood City.
Pelikan says at least once a week, someone will come in who remembers something about the gas station and tells her the story.
She admires the mural on the building across the street, too, as a unique feature of the downtown area and for the historical images depicted.
The menu Pelikan serves at Bonnie’s Cafe is homestyle food that many would think of as “comfort food” — such as hot beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy.
And the kicker is — the mashed potatoes are real mashed potatoes.
“Yes, we peel potatoes. They are real home-cooked potatoes,” Pelikan said.
Every morning, Bonnie’s Cafe bakes fresh muffins, cookies and brownies, too.
And in addition to the baked goodies, the cafe serves ice cream cones, malts and shakes.
And one day, even though it is not on the menu, Pelikan decided to serve liver.
“You would not believe how many people came in. There must have been 40 people. They said if I made it, they would come … I can’t believe how many people love liver,” Pelikan said.
The menu at Bonnie’s Cafe also includes homemade soups, sandwiches, wraps and salads. But what is also noteworthy about the cafe — no fried foods.
Bonnie’s Cafe features four specials in the morning and four specials for lunch.
“We get people calling to find out what the specials are,” Pelikan said.
Some restaurants like to serve the same special on the same day of the week, “but I like to mix it up so the specials are different,” she said.
Pelikan gives the credit for the food preparation at Bonnie’s Cafe to her chef, Kermit Wittmer of Glenwood City, who has more than 20 years of experience and has worked at several restaurants in the surrounding area.
“He is an outstanding chef,” Pelikan said.
Pelikan moved to this area in 1998, and both she and her husband attended UW-Stout. She earned a degree in restaurant management and business from Stout.
In addition to her husband, Pelikan’s family includes one son and one daughter.
“My daughter is working at the restaurant for the summer,” Pelikan noted.
Bonnie’s Cafe is open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The cafe is closed Sundays and Mondays.
“Come in and try us out,” Pelikan said.
“We would love to meet you. We have a breakfast/lunch punch card. Get a free meal!” she said.