MANKATO — Maggie LaPlante was nervous, to say the least, when she learned what she and fellow students in a business class at Bethany Lutheran College were being asked to do.
The owner and managers of a small, beloved downtown cafe in Sherburn wanted to give away their business to a person or family who would vow to care for it and keep it running. And in just a few weeks, the students needed to help make the deal go down.
“At first we were all a little scared,” said LaPlante, a senior. “Then we got down there and we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re doing this. We’re getting this done.’”
Their conviction came from seeing what a true labor of love exists in this quiet storefront, the Cup ’N Saucer Cafe and Sweet Shoppe — where regulars gather daily, all thanks to a couple from Nevada who recently breathed new life into the place.
The humble and modest Gene and Carmen Scheppmann, who want to be kept far from the limelight, invested $25,000 of their own money to renovate the Cup ’N Saucer. They didn’t take over ownership. They just wanted to see the place fixed up without a return on investment.
Gene Scheppmann grew up in Sherburn and later moved to Las Vegas, but every summer the couple returns to the town and to nearby Fairmont, where they have a house. Pat Hansen’s family opened Cup ’N Saucer in the early 1950s, and Scheppmann was a regular customer and had fond memories of the place. He even met his first wife there.
In 2011, during a summer visit, he started having conversations with the Hansens about wanting to refurbish the cafe and keep it running. Hansen and her children aren’t able to run it on their own.
Because of his deep connection to the town and the cafe, the Scheppmanns decided not only to spend thousands renovating the place but to stay on to run it until they could find caring people to take it over. The cafe was closed for renovations in late 2011 and reopened under the Scheppmanns’ management last fall.