Owner Of Wildcat Inn Closing Up Shop After 40 Years

BRIDGEWATER, S.D. – In a town of just under 500 people, there’s one post office, one pharmacy and one buffet. But at the end of this week, one of these shops will be closing in Bridgewater.

After running the Wildcat Inn for 40 years, the owner has decided it’s time to close its doors. But to the community, this means much more than just seeing a building stay dark during the day.

A sign placed in the middle of Main Street marks an end of an era.

“It’s going to be like a death to the community,” says resident Dawn Anderson.

Since 1977, Lavon Zelmer has been the woman everyone goes to see.

“Everyone knows her,” laughs Jerico Shape.

“In the evenings after ball games in the back, there used to be a pool table and video games, I bet there was 70, 80 kids at night,” adds Anderson.

Food certainly plays a factor with all the crowds. Lavon and her husband Harold have devoted their time cooking up delicious meals at the Wildcat Inn.

“Cheese burgers, chef’s salads, bacon cheese burgers have been going fast lately,” explains Shape, who has been an employee at the buffet for two years.

But for the last 7 years, Lavon has had to tackle the ‘owner job’ on her own after a heart attack took Harold’s life.

“We were going to a Twins ball game and he never made it,” says Lavon. “I just can’t handle it anymore. I hate to do it, but after my husband passed away… I’m surprised I ran it this long.”

Lavon is now hanging up her apron, at 81-years-old selling the shop.

“My legs and back just can’t take it anymore,” she says.

The food will be missed.

“The buffet is the only place to eat in town basically,” says Anderson.

But Lavon herself will be the biggest loss to Main Street.

“To me, if it wasn’t for her, there wouldn’t be a lot of great stories around this great town,” says Shape.

“Oh heavens yes, can we tell stories,” says Lavon. “Can’t we Kim!”

So as a parting gift, the town will continue to support Lavon.

“We’ll be here every day until it closes at this round table,” says Anderson.

“It’s been challenging; it’s been fun,” says Lavon. “I enjoy the people and I’m going to miss them.”

The Wildcat Inn will be up for auction on November 13 at 1 p.m. inside the restaurant.

The property is worth $21,000.

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