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Judy’s Cafe gets new owners: 'We just bought it'

Judy's Cafe was recently sold to a long time employee after the restaurant went up for sale earlier this year. (News-Chronicle file photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

As of Nov. 2, Judy's Cafe in Two Harbors has new owners. Husband and wife team Eddy Symons and Lisa Heinonen purchased the restaurant from previous owner Brenda Heston when the restaurant went up for sale earlier this year.

Heinonen, a waitress at Judy's for the past 14 years, said she went home and made a quick decision with her husband.

"We just bought it," she said. "It was a three second decision."

Heston said she was selling the restaurant to concentrate on her refrigeration services business in Iowa where she currently lives. She said, in addition to paying more attention to her primary business, it's been difficult to effectively manage Judy's from more than 400 miles away.

The restaurant has had problems with staffing since being forced to close for more than a month after a fire broke out in July. After reopening in mid-August, the restaurant was unable to remain open until it's traditional early evening closing time because several of the staff before the fire had to move on to other jobs.

Heinonen and her husband, an electrician, have been keeping the restaurant open until 7 p.m. every day and expects two more employees that started this week to fill out the staff and make it easier to stay open all day.

The the popular breakfast hangout known for its regulars and old-fashioned diner appeal was closed when a small electrical fire broke out in the dining room. Smoke quickly filled the entire restaurant and caused damage throughout the interior of the restaurant.

The entire building had to be scrubbed from floor to ceiling to get rid of the smoke damage. Anything porous had to be thrown out. All the old carpets, the cardboard boxes and any food that was exposed to the smoke had to be thrown out and replaced. In addition, the fire department was forced to cut a panel out of the wall to access the utility box that was the source of the fire, all the ductwork in the building was flushed, the air conditioning units were serviced and the walls were painted.

For the moment, the closing time is the extent of the changes the couple has planned for Judy's. They've worked extra hours over the past week to help cover any gaps in staffing and bridge the gap until more help arrives, so there hasn't been any time to plan any changes to the restaurant.

How is life as an owner compared to waitstaff?

"It's the same as before," Heinonen said during a lull Tuesday between the lunch and dinner crowds.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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