by Jim Boyle
Scott and Tammy Alickson along with Camron L’Heureux became the proud new owners of the Olde Main Eatery on Feb. 21.
The state shut the dining area of the restaurant down less than a month later on March 17 due to COVID-19, limiting kitchen operations to curbside service.
Faced with their first major setback, the Alicksons and L’Heureux, all of Princeton, locked the front door to their normally brisk restaurant business and committed to doing the best they can with a curbside pickup and operation.
They’re also making improvements to the front of the house, trying to make the best of a tough situation. A huge curtain separates the front and back.
“We’re renovating the front of the business, and planning to keep the kitchen in the back going as long as we can and get food out to people as long as they want it,” L”Heureux said.
The eatery has a lot of loyal customers, and a lot of Elk River’s business gets done over breakfast and lunch on weekdays during normal weeks of business and families make up a good share of the clientele on weekends. The last few weeks the business has been noticeably slower, and offering curbside pick up is not ideal.
The ownership trio, however, got an emotional and financial lift on the morning of Saturday, March 21, when the phone started lighting up like a Christmas tree. There was a common thread among many of the callers. They either worked with Tammy Alickson at Princeton Hand in Hand Preschool or were friends of hers.
Dawn Smith organized the picnic in a parking lot after learning that Alickson had recently acquired the restaurant and knew of the governor’s decision to close restaurants to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“The stress we are all feeling right now could not even be close to the stress she and her family is feeling,” Smith said.
Smith sent out a group text to all of the staff at Hand in Hand Preschool calling for a show of support for their former colleague and friend. Her idea was the to show up at the downtown Elk River eatery, order take out and have it delivered to the parking lot where they could picnic at socially acceptable distances.
“Like the true team we are, most were able to make it there,” Smith said. “The temperature was a little chilly so we didn’t pull out the lawn chairs (like we had all hoped).”
The group decided while waiting for their food and chatting to gather every other Saturday at a different restaurant to support them in this trying time.
“These are difficult times for everyone,” Smith told the Star News. “But we need to step up and help in anyway possible!”
Eventually Jen Alickson came out to check on the group. Judging from her smile, she had figured out what was going on long before coming out.
She went back in and gathered herself before fielding more orders and bringing out the orders of French toast, cheeseburgers and the like.
Before the Hand in Hand group left, the group gathered for some pictures.
“They all know me so well, they tried to make me cry,” Tammy Alickson said once she was back in the kitchen.
She held her composure, though, and the mood in the kitchen was rather upbeat as orders continued to come in at a good pace. The group visit was a welcome boost to morale after a long week for new owners and Scott and Tammy Alickson’s daughter Kristen Alickson who also doubles as L’Heureux’s girlfriend and an employee at the Olde Main.
“It really means a lot to us,” Camron said. “It makes us feel a lot better with all this crazy stuff going on.”
Curbside pickup started on Wednesday, March 18 and runs from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Payments are required over the phone with credit/debit cards only. Pickups are done in the parking lot entrance and not in front of the restaurant located at 313 Jackson Avenue Northwest in Elk River, MN 55330.
Delivery may be available upon request within the city limits of Elk River. To place an order call the main line at 763-241-8113 or Tammy at 763-286-4004.
Tammy is the sister of Jen Ashfeld, who is the owner and operator of Cornerstone Cafe and Catering Co. in Monticello, 154 West Broadway, P.O. Box 535, Monticello, MN 55362.