Good people and good memories
On Sunday, the last plate will be served up with one more smile, and a Storm Lake family will hang up its aprons for the last time.
Baker's Court, one of Storm Lake's best-known family-owned businesses, is closing this weekend after 11 years of good food and good memories in their cozy converted railroad depot restaurant on the west edge of the city.
"We gave it 11 good years of our lives, and we have no regrets," said Mike Baker, who has owned and operated Baker's Court with his brother Jim and Jim's wife, Cookie. "We are looking forward to moving on with the next chapter of our lives."
As word of the closing spread this week, many of their customers have sought them out to share their support. "The biggest response we hear is, 'We are really going to miss this place,'" Mike said.
Long hours and a limited economy contributed to the decision to close. Storm Lake sales tax records show that revenue for restaurants has declined steadily over the past four years, according to the Bakers. The family plans to stay in the area to pursue other interests - Mike continuing his culinary interests in the catering field.
"We have so many people to thank for all they have meant to us for all of these years - our customers have been wonderful to us, and the great employees we have had," Mike said, with obvious emotion.
"We will close the doors with a lot and lots of positive feelings."
"We are so thankful for all of the relationships and friends we have gained here. We have thoroughly enjoyed the people who have walked through our door, and we are going to miss them," Mike said. "The good times and the laughs we have had at the restaurant are countless. We want to express our gratitude toward the people, because it has always been the people who have made our business fun."
The family opened Baker's Court in 1994 with a sports influenced theme. Over the years, the place has gained a reputation for its innovative menu and friendly appeal even as the decor has evolved into more of an eclectic scene. Private functions, catering and a pub have rounded out services that have attracted visitors from miles around.
For the Bakers, the opportunity to work together has also been meaningful. "We were a family there, a family business in every since of the word. This experience has allowed us to be so close, but in a way, it will be good to go back to being Jim's brother and Cookie's brother-in-law as opposed to also being business partners," Mike said. "Of course, family to us has never been limited to the three of us. We built a family there with the people who have worked with us. Even the kids who worked here as high schoolers and then went away from Storm Lake to go to college still keep coming back to visit, and we hope that we have been a good influence on the young people we've worked with. The closeness was very unique."
The Bakers attempted to sell the site to continue as a restaurant business, but nationwide listings recently have failed to turn up any buyers, leaving the future of the Highway 7 site in question.
And so on Sunday, a final bittersweet buffet is on tap with what remains in the pantry, but for the Bakers, the bill of fare for a decade-long adventure has been more than paid in full by the smiles of the people who have been much more to them than customers.