PARKSTON – Tammy Wheeler is taking care of the top jar, handing out gifts for lunch time during a mid-afternoon quiet at business at Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston. Oneshtë is one of the few quiet moments she will take during her busy working day at a small town restaurant.
But it is another task on a long list that needs to be done to keep its customers and employees happy.
“Employees like it because they don’t have to wait for pay,” Wheeler said sarcastically during an interview with Mitchell Republic.
Wheeler, along with her husband Shawn, has been at the helm of Schuver’s Cafe for the past two years, and she was recently named by Mitchell Republic readers and chosen as one of the restaurants featured in the Battle newspaper series e Hani, which shows the favorite dinners and restaurants of small towns. Restaurant profiles will be posted regularly on the Mitchell Republic website between July and August.
The cafe is known for its backward interior, its friendly service and menu items that seem to never go out of style, such as signature chicken salad and roast chicken. The operation dates back to 1948, when Matilda “Tillie” Schuver ran the café in downtown Parkston. She ran the café until 1974. Years later, Schuver’s nephew Mark Morehouse would take over the reins in 2010 after a string of different owners operated it, usually as a food service.
Now, Wheeler is the co-owner and operator of the location, having taken over in 2019 after a period of work there. Morehouse was interested in selling the corner and Tammy said her husband had thought of owning a restaurant for some time after the couple returned to her hometown more than a decade ago.
Decorations at Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston. (Matt Gade / Republic)
“We’ve been back to Parkston since 2008,” said Wheeler, a 1983 graduate of Parkston High School. My husband (wanted to try it). His ambition was always to run a restaurant, so I worked with Mark (Morehouse) for five years. And when he decided he wanted to retire, I started talking to him and he said he hoped in me and my husband would decide to do it. “You would be good at it,” he said. “
Wheeler began training at the entrance-exit of the restaurant. Although she had worked with Morehouse over the years, she was primarily in the field of waitress and assistant during lunch or dinner rushes. She had a lot to learn about the intricacies and preparations that go into a day job at a busy cafe in a small town.
Even for someone who had worked in the café for some time, there was an important learning curve from passing from employee to owner.
Tammy Wheeler said she thinks Schuver Café has the best food in Parkston. (Matt Gade / Republic)
“So we jumped in right away. They trained me for about a month and after that they said, ‘Adios!'” She said. “I knew what was going on, but then I did not know what was going on, like they did early in the morning, because I was basically just here at lunchtime to help him because he could not find help. I somehow knew what was going on. I didn’t know the behind-the-scenes work of making salads, salad dressings and preparations until we actually bought it. ”
It was a stressful time, but Morehouse was encouraging and customers kept coming. As a gesture to Morehouse and his grandmother, he asked her if she could continue calling the Schuver cafe, which he gladly agreed to.
Morehouse’s experience at Schuver and at his Mitchell restaurant, The Chicken Coupe, helped ease the transition for Wheeler and provided her with a rich experience to use.
Tammy Wheeler, co-owner of Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston with her husband Shawn, not pictured, makes a chicken sandwich in the kitchen. (Matt Gade / Republic)
“I like to think this is what Mark was doing. He was the one who built it. “He’s been in the food business for 35 or 40 years,” Wheeler said.
In addition to having a familiar face, he thought he would do well in the role of owner, he hoped the other owner would keep at least some of the menu items his family had introduced years ago. Wheeler said she had no ambition to change the menu. She knew it was good, and the loyal customer base confirmed it to her.
“The whole menu came from him. “I kept all his recipes as they were,” Wheeler said.
– Tammy Wheeler, co-owner of Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston
She has not deviated from that commitment. She goes on to make the chicken salad recipe that connects back to the Morehouse family. The soft invention is popular, which serves in a number of different ways, from traditional sandwiches to other tariffs.
“We serve a lot (chicken salad). The grocery store is also a big seller of it, I make a big group for them maybe once or twice a week, ”Wheeler said. “We use it for sandwiches, or occasionally someone will want a spoon on a lettuce bed. And it is good for cracking or just eating it with a fork. ”
The Mitchell Republic will present readers ’favorite dinners and restaurants in small towns in the ongoing Battle of Hani function.
Another hot item is roast chicken, which has impressed visitors from all over the continent of the United States. Along with the crab salad pasta, as well as a great help for a friendly service, it keeps people walking in the door for lunch and dinner.
Tammy Wheeler is co-owner of Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston with her husband Shawn, not pictured. (Matt Gade / Republic)
“Most of those who come back come back because they know us and they know the food. Someone from almost every state has told us we have the best roast chicken in the United States. “I’ve heard so many people say that,” Wheeler said.
Customers are quick to evaluate food quality and service. Bill Hoffman stopped at the Schuver Cafe last week in the middle of the afternoon to get a gift for himself and his mother. Like Wheeler, he graduated from Parkston High School before leaving and returning to life later.
He is pleased the downtown stop is there and said there were plenty of delicious items on the menu, including his personal favorite.
“I come in every time. “Food is good food,” said Hoffman. “My favorite is hot burgers with gravy and mashed potatoes. And for a snack, like today, we’re doing some shaking. My mother is sitting in the car, she is taking one and I the other. My wife is on a diet so I will not take one. ”
Customer booths at Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Randy Alberston, from Parkston, was a reader who nominated the Schuver Café for the Battle of Hani. He said he is not the one who eats often, but if he does, Schuver is high on the list of destinations.
“Their hot fried chicken is what I really like,” Alberston said. “I tried a few other things … but this is what I usually get because I like it a lot.”
He said he also liked the ice cream and appreciated the friendly service.
With the exception of a few minor modifications to the Kenny Burger cafe signature and the addition of a soft merge to the menu, the choice at Schuver’s has remained the same during the ownership transition. And while this is great for customers who have known and loved these dishes, it can cause setbacks when a new customer asks the inevitable question.
“What is good?” they ask.
Wheeler said she has given up trying to choose something.
“I never recommend anything, because everything is fine. It just depends on what you are in the mood for. Whenever they ask what is good, I say ‘everything’. What are you hungry for? Want something hot? Do you have time to wait for the chicken or do you want something cold? A chicken salad sandwich takes about three or four minutes, ”Wheeler said.
Chicken salad sandwich at Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston. (Matt Gade / Republic)
For those who sit down for a meal, they can enjoy the ambiance of a building and dining room greeting on classic American dinner days. A pair of horseshoe-shaped counters compliment some of the small cabins. The walls are decorated with some historical photographs, including one of Morehouse’s parents sitting at one of the counters and another photograph estimated to be from the late 1950s showing people enjoying the bowling alley that was once located downstairs. .
Wheeler said she has not changed the interior since the era of Morehouse ownership.
“I have not done any remodeling. “Exactly the exact same thing,” Wheeler said.
Like many restaurant owners, there can be war. Long days can be added and leave her feeling drained until the end of the week. She is extremely grateful to her employees, who continue to make her food and service possible. Fortunately, she is in relatively good shape for the summer months, but noted that she may need help after the school year starts.
Decorations at Schuver’s Cafe in Parkston. (Matt Gade / Republic)
It is a work of love, she said, with an emphasis on both work and love. She does not anticipate leaving the business anytime soon, but acknowledged that at 56 she may have a few days where the hours seem long.
“When you get around Friday and you’re dead on your feet,” she said.
But of course for the time being, she plans to be in front and in the center of the counter, in the kitchen or sharing tips to keep Schuver alive, kicking and serving the classic dishes that have become popular in the city, region and around the country.
Wheeler said he knows this is not something to take lightly. When customers love your food, service, and prices, it’s hard not to continue that commitment to deliver what they want.
“I think it’s the best food in town. “Simple and easy, that’s all,” Wheeler said. “And comparing prices wherever I have gone, I think we have prices too.”