One recent Monday night at Judy's Cafe in Two Harbors, owners Eddy and Lisa Symons were in the new entryway they just built on the side of the restaurant. Eddy has a drill in hand to help put some of the finishing touches on the interior.
The last two and a half years have been eventful for Judy's and their owners. In July 2015, a fire in the kitchen forced the restaurant to close for more than a month and then operate under reduced hours through October.
After the Symons purchased Judy's in early November 2015, they began operating under more standard hours. Over the past few months, they've made a number of improvements and changes throughout the restaurant.
The most obvious change is the new entrance on the side of the building, instead of the original street entrance. Eddy said there had been a number of complaints about the cold air blowing in from the street over the past couple winters and, perhaps more importantly, money was flying out the door every time customers filed in because of all the lost heat.
The Symons built a small entrance on the parking lot side of the restaurant that has a second door leading into the dining room.
The Symons also invested in a new walk-in freezer and cooler for the kitchen. The new walk-in sits on the side and takes advantage of Minnesota's natural cooling system during the winter. Installing them outside also freed up dry storage in the kitchen.
Finally, the couple also upgraded the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to improve airflow in the kitchen and throughout the restaurant.
Many of the changes were funded with an Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Business Energy Retrofit Grant and other grants from the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency. The Symons were able to keep other costs relatively low with a little do-it-yourself attitude about the improvements. Eddy's day job as an electrician in Two Harbors didn't hurt, either.
"We were able to do everything ourselves with the help of family and friends," Eddy said.
The business has become a bit of a family affair for the Symons, with the couple's daughter Kayla coming in to bake the pies Judy's is becoming increasingly known for.
"We bought the new pie cases," Eddy said, gesturing back toward the counter. "We told her she has to keep it full."