Despite Loss of Family and Sales, Arlene’s Cafe Attempts to Keep the Doors Open
ALCESTER, S.D. – In its heyday, chairs in Arlene’s Sunnyside cafe would be full.
Today, they sit empty.
“A lot of people have said that the town needs the café, and I agree.”
Arlene’s is a special place to owner Dan Waag– whose mother is Arlene herself.
Arlene prided herself on making nearly everything in the cafe from scratch. It’s a tradition that was passed down. For a while, running the café was a family affair.
“My mom passed away. So it was my sister and I running it for quite a few years, and now my sister has passed away, so now it’s just me running it.”
The loss of his sister Becky last fall not only impacted the family, but the business as well.
“She used to do a majority of the baking. Cakes, pies.”
Dan’s now trying to learn how to bake like Becky did. He’s also doing all the cooking and managing by himself, as he says fewer customers are coming through the doors.
“It’s slow. In which case bills pile up because we’re not doing a lot of selling, and that’s why I ended up having to close.”
The closure earlier this month was met with surprise and sadness online. There’s even an attempt to raise money through a GoFundMe page.
“As good as that sounds, that’s not exactly what I need. That’s a short term solution to a long term problem.”
What he and Arlene’s need can’t come from the internet.
“I need the support of the town, from what I’ve seen on Facebook.”
More people coming through Arlene’s doors will help keep the business alive.
“That’s the sad part, our regulars are kind of dying off, but we’re not getting any of the new younger crowd in.”
Dan says he hopes Arlene’s can become again what it once was.
“This is a good place to come in and kind of unplug, so to speak, and just enjoy a good meal.”
Because Arlene’s is the last thing he wants to lose.
“That’s the reason why I don’t want to close up permanently. It’s because for the majority of the part, is that’s where the memories of my mom and my sister are, is here cooking and joking around and having fun.”
Dan says he recently got a loan to keep the business running at least for a little while.
He’ll re-open on Thursday, but says he needs the community’s support to stay open.