Busy as a Bee(hive): North Dakota community is happy to have cafe back in business
The Beehive Cafe of Reynolds is a gathering spot for residents of the community.
REYNOLDS, North Dakota — The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon as a group of men trooped into the Beehive Cafe of Reynolds on a morning in late November.
Though it was a few minutes shy of posted cafe hours, managers Mike and Dawn Monette had opened the door to the Saturday regulars, who like clockwork, arrive each week for breakfast at about 10 minutes before 7.
Once inside the cafe, the group, which on this day was made up of 10 men who live in or near Reynolds or down the road in Thompson, sat down at a long table in the middle of the cafe. The number of regulars can swell to as many as 20, so there were a few extra places set.
Each Saturday morning the cafe offers a choice of two breakfast specials, such as pancakes and sausage or bacon, egg bake or French toast with a side of bacon or sausage That’s a tradition that started many years ago and has been carried down from owner to owner
The Beehive had been closed for just more than a year before Jordan Adams, Brian Adams and Pete Thingelstad, all row crop and grain farmers, bought the combination bar and cafe in 2020. The cafe opened its doors to the public in September 2021, after they spent a few months remodeling the space.
"When they closed it, it was a big loss to the community, especially the food part," Jordan Adams said. "It’s really nice to be able to feed the community. In a small town, that was really missed for the time it was closed."
Besides serving food, the cafe and bar are a gathering spot for residents of the town of 319 people and people who live within about a 15-mile radius of it. The Beehive hosts events and fundraisers for residents of Traill and Grand Forks counties. Reynolds’ main street is divided by the county line between the two, and the Beehive is on the Traill County side of the line.
“I think it gives everybody a sense of community again, a sense of small town,” Kevin Leddige said. In the two months since the cafe reopened, he and his family have established themselves as lunch and dinner regulars.
“There definitely was a hole in the community that everybody missed, especially at meal time. It was a place for people to gather and visit,” Leddige said.
Sociologist Ray Oldenburg, in his book, “The Great Good Place,” writes about the importance of “third places,” such as cafes, that are essential to community and public life. Oldenburg, who earned his PhD at University of Minnesota, and is a professor emeritus at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, coined the phrase “third places,” from deriving that they are informal public gathering places, after people’s homes, which are the first places in their lives and work places, which are the second.
In his book Oldenburg notes how the third places, which include main street pubs, cafes and coffeehouses, are the heart of a community’s vitality and provide the foundation for a functioning democracy, offer psychological support to individuals and communities and create habits of public association.
That’s illustrated by the obvious affection and loyalty of cafe customers in Reynolds.
"It was terrible" when the cafe was closed, Leddige said.
While Leddige and his family frequent the cafe at lunch or dinner, Gerald Sieg is a Saturday morning breakfast regular, one of the men who started the group about 50 years ago.
“It’s so homey and everybody talks,” Sieg said. “It’s just fun getting together.”
The group’s Saturday gathering at the cafe is the highlight of the weekend,” said Robert Schumacher, another regular.
“We missed it very much when it was closed,” he said.
”It’s nice to have a cafe in town and visit and exchange ideas,” Sieg said.
Mike and Dawn Monnette, cafe managers, are happy to be there.
Mike owns Monsters BBQ LLC, a barbecue sauce company he started about 15 years ago, and Dawn spent many years in the food service, working in and working in a cafe and a bakery.
“It’s been his longtime dream to have his own restaurant,” Dawn said.
“I’ve always been interested in food, watching my grandma, way, way back in the day and everything she did was from scratch, homemade,” Mike said.
Meanwhile, the opportunity to be their own bosses also was attractive to the Monettes.
The couple set the cafe hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday.
Customers are appreciative of the Monettes' work, Dawn said.
“I think they realize what they were missing when it wasn’t here,” she said. “We’ve asked them for many suggestions to make sure we're giving them what they need, and what they want.”
It’s important for small-town cafe owners to listen to their customers and pay attention to what events are happening in the community and on the farm, and to plan the daily specials accordingly, she said.
“More or less, it’s got to be quick and easy,” she said.
Customers have the option of sitting down to eat in the cafe or bar and picking up to-go orders.
“We’ve done our best to cater to customers. If they need six or eight meals to take to their workers, we will do that in a heartbeat,” Dawn said.
Jordan Adams uses the to-go option more than he probably should during harvest, he said.
“It’s really convenient for everybody to have somewhere to stop for lunch, especially during harvest time to have something to grab and go,” Adams said. “Even going to the (sugarbeet) piler, grab a burger, grab a sandwich and keep on trucking.
“During our farm season everything is in such a hurry and you don’t have to sit down and have a meal, ” he said.
The Monttes still feel like they’re living in a dream, Dawn said.
“We never thought in a million years we’d manage the small cafe in Reynolds, North Dakota,” she said.
Schumacher is glad they are.
‘“They’re really accommodating and friendly and like what they’re doing, so, hopefully, they’ll stay a long time," he said.