New Ulm need a place like Perkins

I am very happy to hear that Perkins is planning on rebuilding its New Ulm restaurant that was severely damaged by a fire on Sunday afternoon. New Ulm needs a place like Perkins, a family restaurant that takes care of you all day long, from breakfast to dinner to late night coffee and pie.

For a lot of people, Perkins is like a second church on Sundays. People go to service at church on Sunday morning, and afterwards they head to Perkins for brunch. When my wife and I have been there on Sundays, we usually have to wait for a table, but the wait usually isn’t very long. We see a lot of people we just saw at church and have a chance to visit while waiting in the vestibule.

A lot of families ahead of us include two or three generations, grandparents and their kids, and the kids’ little kids, all dressed in their Sunday clothes. It’s like heading to Grandma’s for Sunday supper, only Grandma’s doesn’t have to cook.

Sometimes we see tables pushed together for groups of three or four couples who get together once a week to eat and visit.

Perkins was in the midst of a remodeling project, of course. They had the new booths in place, and were planning on closing this weekend for the rest of the project, the carpeting and wall treatments and such. Marijo and I were looking forward to seeing the newly remodeled restaurant when they reopened.

When we heard that the place had been damaged by fire, we got a terrible sinking feeling, one no doubt shared by a lot of people. We drove past it about 4:30 p.m., after the fire was out, and were shocked by the extent of the damage.

New Ulm has had its share of landmarks that were destroyed by fire. I still hear people talking once in a while about Eibner’s Caf, on Minnesota Street, that was consumed by fire. There is a wistful note in their voices as they remember the food, the ice cream, whatever it was that made the place special to them.

It was a social center of the community, a place that hosted club meetings and special gatherings alike.

It’s a little different with Perkins. The restaurant is a franchise, and its menu is the same as any Perkins restaurant in any city.

But what makes it special is the people. If you go there often enough, you get to know the wait staff and the people behind the counter. My wife is a teacher, and some of the waiters are former students who stop by to say hi, or they are young folks from Martin Luther College that we have met through the community theater productions we have been in.

I’m not sure where eveyone is going to go now, whlle the restaurant is rebuilt, but I’m sure they’ll be back when its done.

Kevin Sweeney has been the managing editor of The Journal since May 1985. A native of St. Paul, he worked at newspapers in LeSueur and Albert Lea before moving to New Ulm. Contact him at