February is a hard month to live in Indiana.
And it’s usually a difficult month to be in the restaurant business.
I’ve been hearing good things about how busy many local restaurants have been. Valentine’s Day weekend was incredibly hectic for some of them.
But news broke last week that one of the state’s best ice cream shops, according to an Indiana tourism survey, was closing.
Bonnie & Clyde’s Soda Shop in Bristol shut down. Owner Paul Guzman said he and Bonnie Barrett were trying to buy the former King’s Grocery Store that they’d turned into the Stone Soup Emporium.
He survived a heart attack, but they lost time and the effort to buy the building didn’t survive. “We weren’t able to pull together funding to purchase the building,” he said.
The emporium opened November 2010. The soda shop opened April 27, 2011, he said. “It was going really well,” he said.
They sold ice cream as well as soups and sandwiches. But without being able to buy the building, they didn’t want to put in a full kitchen or stay in business.
While interviewing Guzman, he agreed that selling food in a small town can be a hard sell. “It’s not St. Joe, Mich. It’s not downtown Shipshewana during peak season,” he said.
But people found the place daily because it was part of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Heritage Trail, he said.
It’s sad to see any business close. It’s sad to see a new business that made a state list of best ice cream shops close. Guzman said he plans to pull the old fountain out of the building and reopen elsewhere.
Down the street, Evans Sidewalk Cafe and Chicago’s Downtown Eatery are doing really well.
Jenn and Rich Evans added a dining room at Chicago’s Downtown Eatery, 218 E. Vistula St., this summer and can seat about 40.
They’re seeing the new Utilimaster employees who are working in Bristol instead of Wakarusa, but more are on the way.
How good is business? “It’s crazy,” Jenn said. “It is absolutely nuts. And they’re not even all here yet.”
Shawn Reum, manager of the cafe at 216 E. Vistula St., said, “Business has been pretty good for us.”
Roger Evans and his staff serve inexpensive breakfast and lunch. They have for 18 years and before that the spot had another diner. They’re starting to see some of the Utilimaster employees who are working in the town and look forward to more, she said.
Jenn Evans said weekend business is good, but the “streets roll up at 7:30.” There isn’t a lot of night traffic for a Bristol restaurant. But they’ve found a way to be successful. They sell good food at a good price. “The factories are what keep us alive,” she said.
A family is working on opening Danny K’s Smokehouse and Grill in the former River Inn, but I haven’t been able to get any information on how soon it may open or what the menu will be like. But if the value is good and the operation is efficient, it has a good chance of doing well.
Chocolate Sensations didn’t make it in Bristol. And it’s a shame Bonnie & Clyde’s didn’t either.
But a couple places are doing dandy.
And I need to go have another Chicago dog from Chicago’s Downtown Eatery. I haven’t had one in a while.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 574-296-5805, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via Facebook. His blog is at www.blogs.etruth.com/diningalaking/.
If You Go
Evans Sidewalk Cafe, 216 E. Vistula St., Bristol, open 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 6 to 12:30 Sunday.
Chicago’s Downtown Eatery, 218 E. Vistula St., Bristol, open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 11 to 7:30 Tuesday to Thursday and 11 to 9 Friday and Saturday.