|Eat, Drink and Be Merry:
The owners of Cooper Lake Trading Post and Cafe have the perfect recipe for a laid-back atmosphere
|Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor|
Feb. 13, 2004 -- If you need a little cheering up or are just in the mood for some laughter, head on out to Cooper Lake Trading Post & Cafe located just off FM 71 west on FM 3505, where comedy is what's boiling over in the kitchen.
"We do make the best burger in Posey," said Karen Callenius, the new owner of what was formerly known as the South Sulphur Store. "Of course, that's probably because we're the only cafe out this way."
Callenius and her sister Cindy Moudy, who came down from Missouri to help get the business going, admit they have quite a comedy act going on with the new business venture, because neither of them are in the habit of cooking.
"Both of our husbands usually do all the cooking at home," Callenius said. "Our mother is a health nut, and we were raised on bean sprouts and wheat germ, so we didn't learn too much about cooking from her."
According to Walt, Callenius' husband, when his wife does cook, he knows dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off.
"I haven't burned the place down yet," said Callenius proudly of her five-month proprietorship.
But seriously, folks ...
The cafe has a very country-cozy effect, with little plants potted in vegetable cans decorating the tables, along with a few checkerboards here and there.
"It's a nice, comfortable atmosphere," said Callenius. "A place were people can come eat and watch football games."
Another added feature to the cafe is a 62-inch, big-screen TV that Callenius said wouldn't fit into their new/old home that her husband has been remodeling since their move to the area.
Callenius says she really doesn't know what possessed her to buy a cafe. She and her husband have been land owners in the North Hopkins area for quite some time and ate at the country cafe and store every weekend they were in the area.
"One day we saw that it was for sale, and I just couldn't get it out of my mind," explained Callenius.
She said the next thing she knew, she was the new owner, not only of a cafe, but also a store, boat storage, gas station and bait and tackle shop - a package deal that caters to campers and fishermen just down the road at Cooper Lake State Park.
"People come in asking us what kind of minnows they should use for this or that, and we don't have a clue," Callenius said. "We just make it up as we go."
"It's definitely been comedy central down here," said Moudy, who claims she's having so much fun that she may just stay.
The duo say they are learning the various facets of the business through lots of trial and error, such as the flooding of the bait shop when Callenius forgot to turn off a faucet.
"We had minnows flopping everywhere," Callenius said.
As for restaurant experience, eating at them was previously about the extent of it. However, Callenius said she did come down and observe the previous owner for a couple of days.
"I pretty much just jumped right in and took off running," she said.
Callenius recalled that she did receive a little specialized food preparation training through the guidance of one of the cafe's regulars, as well.
"After a few days of not getting it right, one of the customers actually came into the kitchen and cooked his own eggs to show me exactly how he likes them - good and greasy," Callenius recalled. "He cooked his own breakfast, and I still got to charge him."
Most of the items on the menu are the same as before - burgers, sandwiches and chicken, fish and steak finger baskets - but a few side orders have been added such as fried mushroom, cheese sticks and jalapeño poppers.
A new look for the cafe is also in order.
"We are going with kind of a Western/Aztec Indian kind of theme," she said. "We're going to get a new sign and build a false-front. We've got several plans in mind."
Callenius said she thinks they have come a long way in the short time they have been in business.
"We are definitely a work in progress," she said. "And we're learning as we go and having lots of fun doing it."