The Montana Cafe is Closed


by Becky Trip


On Friday, November 17, 2017, the Montana Cafe was open for it's last day of business.   Val Ohotto, the owner and operator of the Montana Cafe, has closed the restaurant the past few years for the months of December and January, but this year, it is for good.  She and her husband Jerry have talked about selling and retiring in the past, but due to serious health issues, Valerie is selling the Montana Cafe at this time.  This cafe is such an intregal part of our community, that it's difficult to imagine not having this restaurant in Cook any longer. 


Gary Albertson wrote a wonderful article about the closing of the Montana Cafe in the October 26, 2017 edition of his Cook News Herald.  In it, he writes that anyone interested in buying the Montana Cafe can contact Val at:  Valerie Ohotto, 8776 Hyw. 1, Cook, MN 55723.  I really hope that someone sees that this wonderful business opportunity and chooses to keep the Montana Cafe open for many more years to come.



Driving by on Saturday morning, November 18, 2017. 



My mom and I had planned to have lunch at the Montana Cafe on their last day, which was scheduled for Saturday, November 18th.  But, when we arrived on Saturday, this was the note that was on the door.  It reads, "Closed.  We planned on being open Saturday.  But we ran out of inventory.  :)  Thanks you.  Val, Jerry & Crew."








Some history of the Montana Cafe, written by Don Simonson:


April 23



The Montana Cafe building in about 1956

1979, 23 Apr, Miles Johnson & Gary Bamberg 54,2002 bought the Montana Café from Allan & Diane Beaurline who started this café in the old Pajari Maytag Sales building.  Other owners; John & Barb Kuyava & their daughter Laurie Kuyava 24,1985, Sam Mangiere and Pam Dopko,  Dane & Kirsten Frances and Doug Nakari. Kirsten & Fred Reichel, Don & Muriel Simonson. Valerie & Jerry Ohotto are the current owners, since 1996.


2003,April 23, Valerie & Jerry Ohotto had the front of their Montana Cafe re-constructed. This is one of the oldest buildings in Cook, maybe the oldest original building. The building started life as a Meat Market, then a Maytag Sales office. In 1970 Sally Ludlow's brother Allan Beaurline and wife Diane bought the building. That year they established the Montana Cafe, so named as they were actually on their way to the State of Montana to start a Restaurant. 





Some photos from the past that Don Simonson took at the Montana Cafe:


Coffee Crew in 1995




Coffee Crew in 2006

Seated - Norman Cave, Russ Pascuzzi, Don Simonson
 Standing - Elder Metsa, John Musech, Ray Ranta, Jeff Ranta



Frank Pliml




John Geiselman and Margie



Ernie Lund



Karl "Smoke" & Nancy Weatherton



Minnesota State Governor Tim Pawlenty and retired State Senator Douglas Johnson

The Governor did his weekly Saturday morning broadcast from the Montana Cafe



Doub & Linda Flack, 2004



Ron Maki





Travis Ohotta, Val & Jerry's son





A past "About Town" that Don Simonson wrote about the Montana Cafe:


At the Montana Cafe


June 01, 09, Erland & Joyce (Wilenius) Alto were in for breakfast this morning. They are staying at the house they now own that used be the home of his mother and step-father; Melia (Nukala, Alto) & Toivo Maki. 


Joyce is heading up the Great Alango School Reunion which will be held on August 14, 2009 at the Alango School. Erland is also involved as are a number of past Alango students.


Both graduated from the Alango High School, Erland in 1952 and Joyce in 1953. Then they spent the next twenty years in the service of our country. Erland was a sailor in the Navy and served in a number of submarines. Since then they operated a resort at Nevis, Minnesota. They have recently sold their resort. 


Erland is the son of  John Alto who died in 1939 at the age of 30. His mother Melia 95, 2006 than married Toivo Maki 74, 1977. Erland's siblings are; Ronald 75, 2008 (Jean) Alto, Arnold 43, 1980 (Kathleen 37, 1980) Alto and Nancy (Elof) Olson.  Joyce is the daughter of  Sven 55, 1963 & Maybelle 52, 1965 (Hawkinson) Wilenius who owned and operated Sven's Store in Bear River at the corner or highway 5 & 22. Her siblings are Hazel (Robert) Fletcher, Dennis Wilenius 29, 1972.


Joyce & Erland



At the Montana Cafe


May 22, 2009. For many years now we have had coffee at the Montana Cafe. I guess for us old guys it is like getting up and going to work each morning as we all were in the habit of all of our lives. Of course it is enjoyable to see what is new in the world and to visit with friends. I for one do not care for coffee, so I usually have less than a cup.


Every now and then we have a guest that one of the regulars brings. We need this as we have told our histories many times over and repeated every joke a number of times  This morning Ray Ranta brought his beautiful granddaughter Emily, also known as Chrissy. She is the daughter of Ray's son Jeff and his wife Mary. Emily has two sisters; Kalli and Leah and a brother Peter. Ray also has another son; Scott who is married to the former Pam Schelde. Her parents are Martin "Red" & Edwina 68, 2001 (Novak) Schelde.  Emily is a student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She is proud of her Finnish heritage. Her grandfather Raymond speaks Finnish very well and I am sure is teaching Chrissy to be good Finn. We reminded Chrissy her Grandmother Opal 80, 2008 was Norwegian. 


Ray and Chrissy


Glenn Reichel writes about this old building

From: A Reichel

Sent: Sunday, May 10, 2009

Subject: Additional info. about 1908 "oldest building in Cook."


Mr. Simonson, 

      Glenn Reichel remembers that this 1908 building was first a two story hotel, (Knowleton Hotel).  His father, Waldo Reichel, rented a room there when be first came to Cook to began his barber business (in about 1919)  A.W. Francis was his roommate.  Pearl Mann worked there as a waitress and eventually became Mrs. Reichel!  Glenn  recalls that in the '30s the Ray Ronnings had an apartment there. Especially impressive to young Glenn, was the immense "Fern" plant in the lobby!

      Thank you for your outstanding work on this web site. It is such a meaningful connection for former "Cookites." 

                                                                                                     Yours, Arvilla Reichel


Thanks to Glenn for this interesting note. He has shared many of his old photos of Cook with this web site. Glenn's father was a real community promoter. He was the town barber so he knew everyone, and had the personality to be liked. Waldo had his barber shop across from the drug store, in the sturdy brick building which still stands, next to the river. Waldo served as the second mayor of the Village of Cook, from 1930 until 1943. I understand the residents in the rooms upstairs of this building had to carry all their water up there from a well near the river. Cook did not get running water until the late 1930's. They City had electricity starting in 1930.


Waldo died in 1994 at the age of 93 and his wife Pearl in 1999 at the age of 94. Their son Dick also died in 1994, at the age of 64. Dick & Shirley (Stenbeck) Reichel are the parents of Kathy, Sandra, Martin 19, 1974 and Fred.




May 07, 2009, Melvin & Audrey Bakk were at the Montana Cafe this morning. They stopped at our table to visit and as you know they are very easy people to visit with, always cheerful.


When leaving I stopped at their table and learned they were waiting for Arden & Verna Anderson. I recognized the name of Arden and asked if he was the man that represented the North Star Timber Company at Cook back in the 1950's. He was so I was excited to see him. When I introduced myself he asked if I was the son of Jesse Simonson. What a memory, I really appreciated the nice things he said about my Dad as he logged for Arden's company.


Then I met Arden's wife, the former Verna Marsyla, she then asked if I was the one that publishes the Cookmn web site. She said she reads it all the time. I soon learned she is a cousin to Audrey whose father Martin (Lillian) Schelde was a brother to Vera's mother Mabel Schelde (Wayne) Marsyla. Verna is the widow of Donald Holter of the class of 1955, he passed away in 1993 at the age of 64. Arden and Vera have been married for 13 years. Visiting these four people will brighten anyone's day.




Our family has always visited the Montana Cafe. Last year, my mom, daughter, and I went to the Montana Cafe on National Grilled Cheese Sandwhich day, to enjoy one of their amazing Double Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.



Muriel Simonson and grandaughter Elizabeth on April 12, 2016, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day



I'm going to miss that famous Double Grilled Cheese Sandwhich...


To Val and all of the Montana Cafe family, we wish you well and have you in our prayers.  Thank you for being such a big part of our lives and that of our community!