The Short Line Cafe officially opened to the public last Wednesday with a full menu. Located at 100 E. Maine Street in Perry, previously Hootenannies, the building has been newly renovated and is ready for a fresh start.
In fact, fresh is the theme for this farm-to-table restaurant where they call their dishes “Comfort food at its finest.” Everything served on the plate was either grown or raised nearby. Owner, Valerie Wollberg, is dedicated to making sure they provide high quality food.
“Our pork and beef is all grown by local farmers in the area, and right now we have been getting vegetables from the Amish,” she said. “We know that in the wintertime getting vegetables will be more difficult but we will do our best. We have a lot of stuff canned to use in the winter.”
Wollberg’s son and general manager of The Shortline Cafe, Sean Gallagher, said that chicken is harder to get near Perry so he travels to St. Louis to Porter’s Chicken, a locally owned farm who also does their own processing. Even the ice cream at the Short Line Cafe is homemade by a vendor in Paris.
The menu consists of hearty pastas, pizza, sandwiches and wraps. They will also be featuring homemade soups and a full salad bar. Breakfast is served until 10:30 a.m.
Wollberg said the menu was a collaboration between owner, management, and employees. She wants to make sure that her staff has input on the food they serve. Many of them have already helped in remodeling the building.
“We had some nice people come in and apply and Sean told them that they could stay on and help during the renovation until opening day. They all stuck around,” she said. “Everybody has had input on it. It was a learning process for them but it sure took a load off Sean.”
Some of the renovations include a brand new kitchen and moving the bathrooms from the front to the back.
They have created a whole new look to bring Perry history into the building with original prints of the Short line railroad, which was built in Perry in 1891-1892, and contributed to the town’s growth. The prints were provided by Ron Leake, the President of the Ralls County Historical Society, and another vendor.
“Perry wouldn’t exist without the railroad. All the prints are part of Perry history,” said Gallagher. “There are more coming and one will depict the history of Mark Twain Lake as well.”
Wollberg, a retired nurse, and Gallagher, a retired carpenter, had no plans to start a diner, and they were actually eyeing a local church for a possible Airbnb location, when they saw the former Hootenannies was for sale.
And so they went for it.
“The Airbnb didn’t work out and this place was available,” said Wollberg. “We had no plans on opening a diner or anything — that just happened.”
Since making the jump from Airbnb to a diner, they have created a grand plan for The Short Line Cafe. The restaurant will soon feature a retail area where they will be selling homemade jellies, jams, and vegetables, which will open in about two weeks.
They also plan to offer family-sized pasta takeout meals, a catering option, and will have the ability to host parties in-house in the back room, which they will be ready to offer in about thirty days.
Wollberg is so grateful for those who joined in their vision. She said her daughter-in-law, Stephanie Gallagher, designed the logo. “She has helped out in more ways than I could count,” Wollberg said. “Money couldn’t repay her.”
The Perry Chamber of Commerce also helped to prepare for the soft opening and had a ribbon cutting ceremony for the restaurant during their Business Appreciation Day on October 1. Gallagher said they are grateful for their help in getting the word out.
“The whole encompassment of the community is where we want to focus,” said Gallagher. “We have a hard time because we are out-of-towners reaching out to the community.”
Gallagher said that the previous business was not always reliable, but they hope to make a fresh start. The Short Line Cafe plans to be there with good food, regular hours, and a true dedication to the community.
“Out with the old and in with the new,” Wollberg said.