A trip down memory lane is only a corner away at Lansing Corners Supper Club, 270187 US Hwy. 218 in Austin, MN.
Tammy Jeno and her husband, Ward, lived in California for the last five years. Missing their 10 grandchildren in Minnesota, the couple wanted to find a way to be closer to their loved ones.
“We missed them,” Jeno said. “We kept looking for jobs and couldn’t find anything. So, we said, ‘Let’s open up a restaurant.’”
While hunting for property in Minnesota – Ward is originally from Medford – the Jenos discovered a property listing that included a 5-acre homestead, a house, and the Lansing Corners building of 13,000 square feet. The Wards’ search was over.
“It was a cheap price,” Jeno said. “Normally, when you buy a business like that you just lease the building. This is ours. We bought the whole caboodle, the house and the restaurant.”
A grand opening took place Aug. 15.
The building has had several different identities, having originally opened in 1938 as a gas station and diner. Then a restaurant, an event center, and The Corners Bar and Grill in 2014.
Interest in the supper club returning to Mower County spread like wildfire. Every so often, a friend or passerby would pop in and ask Jeno if the restaurant was opening any time soon. The escalation of anticipation from patrons was a little overwhelming, but Jeno was determined to bring Lansing Corners back to its glory days, but with some of their own personal touches.
“It’s kind of nice,” she said. “It’s kind of scary what the grand opening will be like.”
Supper clubs, Jeno said, appeared to be a “dying breed.” The term refers to a type of old-fashioned dining establishment that acts as a social club and had its start possibly in the 20th century.
“We wanted to bring it back the way it used to be,” she said. “Not being moved in and out like cattle, and shoved out the door. It’s where your locals come meet, meet new people, and they’re not being rushed out the door.”
For the last month, the Jenos and their friends and family, have been working hard to clean and paint the building to prep it for patrons. New curtains are hung and two bars were established. One will be situated in the back and another in the ballroom. A salad bar was also purchased. Eventually, the owners hope to install nicer wooden floors, and keep the decorations simple.
In other words, it’s been a hectic month.
“They did not leave this place pretty,” Jeno said. “It was dirty and disgusting. We had a big family day where people here were scrubbing things inside and out. It’s been stressful, with a lot of family and friends, it’s been a big help.”
There’s an upstairs party room that holds 70 people, and the ballroom can hold around 225.
The idea was to offer drinks and freshly-made bread to those waiting in the ballroom before being able to be seated in the dining room – which seats 126 people comfortably, including the bar area – as a way to help make wait more pleasant as opposed to sitting or standing outside.
“We want to give them that option,” Jeno added. “We don’t wanna feed them in the ballroom. We gotta be realistic, and we can’t support 400 people at a time. So, we’re only feeding them in the dining room. We don’t want to turn people away.”
Around 17 people were hired to work at the restaurant, including three chefs that will be working the kitchen to serve some of Lansing Corners most sought-after items for former patrons, such as the popular haddock; and original owner, Ron Valentine’s famous baked beans, made from his secret recipe that was bestowed onto the Jenos.
Otherwise, the food will be kept simple, so that they can be concentrated on for specials. There’s even hopes to serve brunch, express lunch.
“I wanna see what the customers like. The supper club will be bringing you homemade cooked foods,” Jeno added. “You have a huge expansive menu . . . you can’t keep stuff fresh that way.”
The couple also has dreams to offer a beer and wine tasting room, and host events for those interested in having a “girl or guys” night out. Once time has settled, the Jenos hope to open for breakfast, Sunday brunch, and buffet express lunch for those out on the road.
There’s also hopes to begin hosting outdoor weddings on the homestead with a wooden gazebo in the works, for those looking to get married,. The popularity of the venue was evident when a wedding already took place earlier this month – Jeno attributes it to popularity with the low cost of renting the event center for $500 – with six or seven events happening or booked for this fall and winter.
While there are many ambitions and dreams for Lansing Corners, Jeno mostly wants it to be a place where people can sit down and have a conversation, taking their own sweet time with a good meal.
“I don’t care about making extra money. I want to have fun, you know?” she said. “As long as you work hard and pay the bills. I want this to be one of those places where you’re at home.”