Log Cabin, 1960s
Advertisement, earlier days
Floyd's delivery truck
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Arlene Richardson today
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Manager Carolyn Fromme, at left, and owner Samantha Deaver.
For years, as meal time approached in the North Platte Union Pacific Bailey Yard, railroad workers could expect to hear a common theme.“What's for lunch?” a rail yard employee would ask. Often the reply would be: “I'm going to the Cabin,” or “Call the Cabin and see what the special is today.”
The Log Cabin Cafe at 4012 Rodeo Road is near the world's largest rail classification yard, making it a natural dining spot for a railroader.
It was also a popular stop for many others.
The previous owners, Robert W. and Joyce M. Kohler, purchased the property in 1995 and operated both the filling station and the cafe. During their ownership, the gas pumps were removed.
In May 2011, the cabin closed. It reopened again briefly in July 2012, but closed permanently on July 31. The manager had a significant illness and training someone new presented a major challenge.
"I finally decided it was time for me to retire from the business," Bob Kohler said.
But the historic cabin has taken on new life.
On Dec. 11, Kohler sold it to Deaver Hay, Inc. and it was just a matter of time until it opened again.
On Jan. 22, the ownership company officially became the Log Cabin Cafe, LLC. It opened for business on Feb. 6 and is again serving meals and offering convenience store items.
Owner-manager Samantha Deaver said buying the Log Cabin was a great opportunity to start a new venture. She and four family members are the owners, including her mother, father, sister and brother.
Deaver said she had never owned a restaurant but has always been employed in the food service industry. She is challenged with the task of reestablishing former clientele as well as winning new customers. To help, she hired some former staff, including manager Carolyn Fromme.
“It’s great to see railroaders returning to eat here,” she said. “My goal is to make the Log Cabin a fun place for families to stop in and eat. I want people to enjoy great food and friendly service.”
According to her, one of the greatest challenges in ownership is learning how to keep the operation running smooth and knowing when certain things must be done.
Not only did the cafe have a reputation of serving a variety of hot meals, it was also popular as a spot where people met for morning coffee.
And for years, it was the place to go on Sunday for beer, since the cafe lies outside of city limits and wasn't restricted by a former city ordinance that prohibited Sunday alcohol sales.
Deaver plans are underway to resume carryout beer sales, but at present, they are concentrating on their menu, increasing business and getting into a routine. At this time there are no plans for any grand opening celebration.
Advertising has been word of mouth, plus fliers that have been handed to railroaders. Deaver said business is steadily increasing and she looks forward to a bright future. Interested parties can connect on facebook at The Log Cabin.
David A. Baum originally bought the land from the Cody Land and Cattle Company on June 26, 1929. In those days, Buffalo Bill Cody owned a lot of land on the west side of town, library researcher Kaycee Anderson said.
The deal was handled by the Scouts Rest Company, a realty company that was probably owned by Cody.
Part of the land was purchased a decade or so later by the state of Nebraska to build the Lincoln Highway (US 30).
U.S. Highway 30 was the main east-west route through Nebraska until Interstate-80 was built in the late 60s. With many travelers, businessmen took the opportunity to build along the highway, opening filling stations, cafes and motels, and the Log Cabin.
On April 7, 1936, Baum sold the property to Floyd and Mildred Richardson. The property contained a building plus a light pole; asphalt paving and a roofed porch, according to county records.
On June 15, 1936, the first advertisement for Richardson's Log Cabin ran in the North Platte Daily Bulletin newspaper. In 1938, the name officially became The Log Cabin.
The Richardsons owned the cafe and filling station for 36 years, although different people leased or managed the business during that time.
Floyd’s daughter-in-law Arlene Richardson told the Bulletin that she and her husband eventually ended up operating the business themselves.
“One of the managers came in one day and turned over the keys, saying he was through,” Arlene said. “I just went in and acted like I knew what I was doing, and that’s when we took over the station for ‘Sam,’” she said.
Floyd was better known as Sam to friends and family.
On Dec. 28, 1972, the elder owners gave the business to their son, Rex E. Richardson, Arlene’s husband.
Arlene recalls many things about the business. She said the larger of the two cabins east of the main building was the original café. Another small building was an office. The main building was a filling station.
The original office building moved to the property from the ranch across the road.
Behind the two smaller buildings stood a bunkhouse for cowhands who took care of the ranch cattle across the highway from the station. The old bunkhouse burnt down years ago.
To the west is a large warehouse that was originally used to store hay for the cattle.
Richardson showed us a picture of the station from the 1930s. The tanker in the photo is the first truck that Floyd had for fuel service delivery. On the back of the picture, Floyd wrote, "this is the truck I use to drive. They took money out each month for it and now it is mine."
Richardson said the Log Cabin obtained its first beer license during a time when beer sales were prohibited in town on Sundays.
Thinking that selling beer would be a money making proposition, Arlene approached Floyd and asked if he minded if she tried to get a beer license.
“He said he didn’t care, but was sure I wouldn’t get a license,” she said.
Coincidentally, the Nebraska Liquor Commission was meeting that week.
“I applied to them and got a license two weeks later,” she said.
Every Sunday morning, cars would line up for 2-3 blocks waiting for 1 p.m. to be able to purchase beer.
Also, during the 70s, workers who built the Sutherland Gerald Gentleman Power Plant became regular customers.
“We would be crowded every day when they stopped in to eat,” Arlene said.
Rex and Arlene owned and managed the business until 1985, when they sold to Silco Oil of Colorado. Silco owned the business until 1996, when it was sold to the Kohlers.
Bob Kohler said the best memories of running the business were the friendships he developed with customers.
"I really enjoyed all of the farmers and railroaders that I got to know over the years," he said.
Kohler said that customer service was one of the main reasons for success. They did their best to please.
"Once we had a guy come in and order two hotdogs," he said. At that time, they were using the microwave to cook hotdogs. When they gave him the hotdogs, the customer told him that he was a chef from New York and that microwaving was not the proper way to cook hotdogs.
Kohler asked how they should be cooked and the customer said grilling was the only way.
Kohler apologized and told him he was sorry he didn't like the way they were cooked.
The man took the hotdogs and left.
"I figured that was the end of it, but I was wrong,” Kohler said. "A few minutes later, I get a call from the sheriff, who was trying hard not to laugh. He said that he got a call from one of my customers who complained that we didn't know how to cook hotdogs. By that time, both the sheriff and I were laughing."
Kohler told the sheriff to send the customer back and he would make it right.
The customer returned and the cook followed the man's instructions, cooking them slowly on the grill.
"She did everything just like he asked, until the very last. She went to stick them with a fork and he said ‘you should never stick a fork into a hotdog,’" he laughed. She held back on the fork.
"It took some time, but we did make him happy," Bob said.
Bob once considered bulldozing it down and building a strip mall.
"I'm glad I didn't do that,” he said. “This place has too much history. I wish the new owners the best of luck and hope it stays open for years to come.”
This business has been a fixture for more than 75 years in North Platte. The reopening of the Log Cabin Cafe assures another icon in North Platte area history will continue to operate.
Deaver said they are keeping many of the successful and popular menu items that customers enjoyed.
First published in the Bulletin's March 4 print edition.