Corner Cupboard closes its doors

EVART — Friday was a hard day for Jean Duey.

It was the day she carried through on a promise she made herself last winter. She knew then that if business didn’t pick up at her Corner Cupboard Restaurant in Evart this summer, she would close it before winter.

It didn’t. She did.

Friday she locked the door as she left, knowing that this time it was for good. Oh, sure, there was cleaning and clearing to do, and many decisions to be made, but the hardest one of all had already been made ...and carried out.

She had been located at that special corner just a block off U.S.-10 tending to business, but best of all to her customers. She loved them. And, they her. In fact, many showed up Friday for one last breakfast, and a good many who did left hefty tips and left with tears in their eyes. Jean had some tears too.

She and her seven employees knew this was coming, “but it’s hard to let go. It’s harder to let them go. It was terrible to tell them.”

Jean blames the economy, yes, “...but we’re closing mainly because the uptown area is dead. You can look out and people are not even driving down the street,” she said.

She shook her head and grimaced as she continued, “I’ve been preaching for years on this at council that the uptown areas need more help than bringing in inflatable toys for kids to jump on once a year, and until they decide what they’re going to do with stores up here and help them, this area will fold up and close.”

She sighed, then added that it’s impossible for the family restaurants, the ma and pa kind that caters to the “locals,” to compete with the places that have “air conditioning and take all the tourists that are here a few days or a week or more away. We can’t compete with the dollar menus of a fast food place that gets a steady stream and people don’t even come off 10 and look for a nice little restaurant.”

She hasn’t sold the restaurant. “Who wants to buy a dead horse? I really had made up my mind. If summer wasn’t good, I’d close. The only question was when. Some people said, but what about hunting season? Couldn’t you stay open and it would pick up then? No, it would not. Those people come home and want to rest, not go out to a little restaurant to eat. Or to the motel or out where they can get a drink and food too.

“I figured out this day, and then we’ll go from there,” she said. “Getting it closed first is the thing.” And she did that. “But I haven’t figured out the next. I’ll be missing the people, my customers, accommodating them using the meeting rooms, but as far as knowing the next step, I don’t have one.”

She said it has been hard work. Yet, she needs to stay topside smelling the roses. And hobbies?

“I used to have some, but it’s been so long ago I forgot what they were.”

What will be the first thing she planned to do when she went home Friday night after that long, emotional day of work?

“Take off my working shoes. I’ll keep ‘em. Too expensive to throw out.”

She said she hasn’t ever had the time to think about what she might do when she retired. “Haven’t had time to think about it, and tonight I will be, pretty much. When I get so bored I’ll have to think about it.”

And with that, tears arrived. Then her words, quick and to the point, “Excuse me. I have to get to work.”

Had to. For sure. And a couple of customers at the next table shared their thoughts.

“We drove 200 miles to come have one more breakfast here, but we can’t say goodbye. You know, she has worked so hard and look what’s happened.”

The couple, Heather and Dennis Edge are from the Detroit area and have a place, they said, at Chippewa Lake. Newlyweds five years. Love the area, the Corner Cupboard, and especially Jean Duey.

They said big, fancy restaurants “aren’t our cup of tea, but this place is good atmosphere, good people, homey, no TV and that’s a plus,” Dennis said.

“We’re migrating north,” he added. “We found this place has prices that are good, food is good, and she kept it that way by not having to buy new chairs or tables every year like some do. They take care of the regulars here. You don’t find that out there.”

When their bill came, it showed they owed $0. Heather couldn’t handle it. The tears rolled. Jean came back to visit a bit, declared she has a plan for the next day after all.

Grocery shopping for home.

The sign outside said “Open.” In a few hours it would shut off and remain unlit the next day.