Coming to an end
Rusty Rhymer made one final pitch to save Taunton’s only restaurant, Rusty’s Corner Cafe. Last week he went on KELO Land TV of Sioux Falls to let everyone know the cafe is going to close — unless a buyer steps forward. Customer Ron Sussner of Ghent has been coming to Rusty’s for 50 years and said, “It will hurt Taunton,” if the restaurant closes. These small town restaurants, “Are very important because they bring people together,” said Sussner. But when Rusty’s wife Paula passed away, some of the heart and soul for the business went with her. Paula (57) passed away on August 8, 2017 at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. She grew up in Taunton, a community of about 140 people, and graduated from Minneota High School. Paula obtained her degree in accounting from Southwest State University.
On August 21, 1982, she married “Rusty” Rhymer. The lived in Marshall and Rochester before purchasing what became Rusty’s Café in Taunton in 1988. She had a long battle with cancer including breast cancer and leukemia. Rusty was left with daughter Ashley (and Jeremy) Hanson of Hartford, SD, son Dustin Rhymer of Marshall and a grandson, Evan Hanson.
The Rhymer family was looking forward to a big year in 2017: for Paula to remain in remission, the birth of their second grandchild, and Paula’s birthday announcement that after nearly 30 years Rusty would begin his 2018 farewell tour as owner of Rusty’s Corner Cafe in Taunton.
But, life doesn’t always go as planned. And he learned some things about his way of life during that time.
“I’ve been pretty up front about my blurred line between work and home,” he said. He told the Mascot, “I’m a crazy kind of guy who likes to work. Maybe that’s not the best thing to be.”
While he knew his wife loved him, she also knew he worked a lot.
“I went through the journey with her, one I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I got to love someone like that.”
Now, with grandchildren and hopefully still a lot to give his family, he wants time with them.
“I have a daughter who doesn’t have a mom. I told her a man can’t be a mother.” But he does want to be there for them.
Originally, “I wanted to sell it. But I’ve only had one phone call and one person visited. Nothing has worked out,” he said.
Now, as time comes close for him to walk away from the business, he said, “The only reason I’m doing this (going on television) is hopefully somebody will see it and come out (and buy it).” His motivation, “Is to make a change for myself.”
“If I’ve got to switch jobs, I’m looking for insurance and I might find other work.” The restaurant business is not easy. “You work so much and find it hard to get out of bed,” Rhymer admitted.
He knows if the cafe closes it will leave a, “Big hole in community,” but right now the best thing is, “To force the issue to get some last minute activity, because I haven’t had much interest,” he said.
“I don’t know if I can pull it off. I can only do the best I can,” he said, adding, “I don’t know (what the future holds.) I’m looking for a change, to being with the grandkids.”
The Corner Cafe has only been as good as the people who work there and he says the small staff, “Is the success of the place.”
One is Kathy Rhymer, his brother’s wife, who has been there as the main waitress, through thick and thin. And his brother helps out from time-to-time.
“I’ve been a part of it but they’ve been the success of this story. It’s a very small, very loyal staff that has been the success of this place,” Rusty added.
“They were wonderful when Paula was sick,” he said.
The staff raised money to help, kept the restaurant operating and added daily prayers. “It’s my legacy that people say, oh, the food was good ....those are things to remember.”
“For anybody I dealt with, I got the chance, to know them. Our legacy is the people.”
ONE OF the loyal customers, relative and former owner of the cafe is still around and last week Fran Breyfogle told the TV station, “I don’t want to see it closed. I hope somebody steps up and buys it.”
Breyfogle still eats at the cafe and joked, “I used to eat here when I owned it, too.”
The 94-year-old patriarch of the cafe came from a family of 11. He told the story of how his mother died at the age of 45.
When asked how she died, he dead-panned his answer and said, “She died from too many kids.”
Breyfogle has kept his sense of humor alive as he plays cards every morning at Rusty’s Corner Cafe and still grows a patch of flowers outside the cafe. He remembers when the cafe was called, “Joe’s.”
He doesn’t much care what they call it — but he sure would like to see the cafe remain open in Taunton.
As Sussner, who first came to the cafe when he was 16, said, “Here you can get a home-cooked meal, good service and good hospitality.”
Fran Breyfogle added, “If this closes up, goodbye Taunton.”