First, Matthew’s Family Restaurant closed under somewhat mysterious circumstances in October 2019. It was an immensely popular breakfast and lunch spot for many years. And then it was gone.
Then, after the new year, owners of Creamery Crossing in Isanti announced they would lease the space and open a second location with a very similar menu in February.
“It was working,” said owner Darrell Carlberg. “Our weekends (were) an hour-and-a-half wait for a table.”
Then, in March, Gov. Tim Walz ordered restaurants and other businesses shut down due to the spread of COVID-19.
Creamery Crossing in Circle Pines closed after only five weeks, and, eventually, the original location in Isanti closed for good. Carlberg had bought it 26 years ago, and he said there were a lot of reasons why, including rising rent prices.
“We just wanted to take that opportunity to create something new for (Circle Pines),” he said.
The result is The Rusty Cow Cafe, now open in the former Creamery Crossing spot in Circle Pines, which is in the former Matthew’s spot.
“You know, we had time to think about it, time to talk to the employees, (and) make sure they were going to be able to come back to work,” said Carlberg.
The Rusty Cow uses more locally-sourced produce and offers some new gluten-free options, in addition to dinner. The restaurant is now open to 7:00 p.m. six days a week, a first for that location.
Carlberg laughs when he acknowledges the seemingly abnormal path his business has taken in such a short amount of time.
“It is the times, you know,” he said. “We have to work with it in business and personally, and just understand and respect each other’s needs–what they won’t do and we’re here for them during these difficult times.”
He said he hopes to soon add online ordering to complement his take-out service.
“I guess I feel these difficult times are going to last us for a long time, and so, we have to prepare for it now,” he said. “(We have to) look for the future and keep it going as best we can.”