The Story of Crystal Cafe


Over 50 years ago my Mom, Ann, who was widowed, needed a job to support her 3 children at home: Judy- 14, Joe- 11 and Storm who was still a baby. The only thing she knew was cooking. She had previously managed the Congress Club (a cafe) in Stevens Point. Somehow she stumbled upon the Crystal Cafe located in Iola (my mom loved this little town). It was unheard of for a woman to buy a business in those years. However, she managed to get a loan from the bank in the amount of $13,000 to purchase the Crystal Cafe.


The Cafe originally had only 13 coffee cups and place settings for 12. The daily special was Roast Beef (only a 4 lb. roast). All of the old-timers would speak Norwegian while enjoying their coffee, cookies and good conversation. Business was slow in the beginning, but all of the townspeople soon started to gather here and it became the social center for Iola. Mom would work almost every day. It was just Mom and I on the weekends, 5am to 8pm. On a great day we would make about $80 during a fifteen hour shift. "We did not have much, much of nothin'!" Mom would always say. We did not have guest checks, I would have to call orders back and Mom would make it all from scratch. In between customers both Mom and I would take turns doing dishes by hand!


As time passed, the business grew and we were able to afford to remodel the building. So, as the Crystal Cafe went on I found myself always at the restaurant helping out Mom. She worked a lot, her expertise being PIES. She always thought that anything homemade was always better. So, her big secret about making her pies, "it's all about the feel of the dough." Mom believed in working hard, very hard, making everything from scratch, and serving quality food.


Mom retired at the age of 80 and I took over holding true to her philosophy. Now my daughter Jennifer helps me manage and run the kitchen, just like her Grandmother. On the weekends you'll see the 4th generation of girls: Sadie and Olivia who are training to be waitresses, cooks and dishwashers.


Hopefully you'll enjoy your visit, because here, we treat you like family! - Judy