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After nearly 50 years...: Country Kitchen announces it's closing

Country Kitchen in Detroit Lakes has closed its doors after 50 years in business. (Kaysey Price / Tribune)

After nearly half century of serving their signature comfort foods in the Detroit Lakes community, Country Kitchen turned off its grills and fryers and closed up shop Thursday.

Minority owner and manager of the restaurant, Dave Streiff, says he was a little taken aback by the news, when the majority owner announced his plans to close down Country Kitchen and put the building up for sale.

"I don't even have a real reason," he said. "The biggest thing is the lack of help in Detroit Lakes."

Country Kitchen, like many of the restaurants in Detroit Lakes, has struggled to find and keep good help. They had reached some success by hiring the family members of some of their best workers, but they still struggled.

"The people we had, we had to overwork them into overtime," said Streiff.

At a certain point, the stress became too much to keep the doors open, and the majority owner decided to throw in the towel.

"It will be up for sale," said Streiff, adding that he would be spending the next few days clearing everything out and cleaning up to get the building ready for potential buyers.

This, after Streiff and his wife, Deborah, announced plans in December to try to salvage the business by transforming it into a "Cafe by Country Kitchen," which had them cutting back their hours and honing in on serving their specialties: breakfast and lunch.

Streiff says one plus side is the fact that the Detroit Lakes Food Pantry just got a sizeable donation. He estimates they picked up roughly $4,000 to $5,000 worth of food from the Country Kitchen on Thursday.

"I guess, in a weird way, this kind of worked out good that way," he said.

Streiff, along with his wife and kids, have put their heart and soul into Detroit Lakes' Country Kitchen. After managing the business for a number of years, Streiff left and came back about six years ago to run it again. He and Deborah spiffed the place up back in 2012 and did well for themselves. They were hoping this next phase, the Cafe by Country Kitchen, would be the thing to keep their beloved business rolling for many more years to come.

"That's what's really sad," said Streiff. "I can't tell my customers goodbye. I can't tell my staff goodbye. I've got a lot of loyal people."

Streiff says he and his wife are going to take a much-needed break for a few weeks and decide whether they want to give the restaurant business another go or not.

"It may or may not be over," he said, adding that he's considered buying the building and keeping it a Country Kitchen himself. "My wife is my partner. If she doesn't want to do it, we won't do it."

He says there's always the potential that someone else may want to buy it, too, and give the cafe another shot—or turn it into another restaurant or something else.

"Really, I'm not entirely sure," said Streiff.

Only time will tell whether another community staple has left the town for good.