A Salem Phoenix: Country Corner Cafe now on Main Street |


The Country Corner Cafe burned down on September 1, 2021.

“It was quite traumatic – it was our livelihood,” said owner Michelle Nelson, who had run the business since its purchase seven years prior.

“I had just lost my stepfather two days earlier,” she said. “It seemed like just one thing after another.”

“I was worried about my employees. I wanted to make sure they were all okay,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she often tells her employees that without them she couldn’t work at the restaurant the same way they couldn’t work without her.

“I didn’t just lose my business, I lost contact with a lot of people. [who] I consider family,” she said.

“I missed my regulars—more [seven] years, you build a following,” she said. Nelson described his missing clients’ feeling of loneliness as the loss of his entire family. “I like my regulars; I love my clients,” she said, her voice echoing genuine care. “These are the people I saw every day,” Nelson said.

“Without seeing them, I just felt like something was missing,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she was blown away by how the Salem community shared that sentiment since the Country Corner Cafe burned down. “I can’t even go to Walmart without someone stopping me and asking me if we’re going to reopen. I used to be able to walk in and out in 30 minutes with a basket full of groceries, but now I have to make sure I have time to stop and talk,” she said.

“I guess it made me feel good that we missed people,” she said. “It kind of gave me a headache knowing how many people missed my cooking!”

Nelson recently purchased Main Street Cafe from Lori Plank and Shala Sheppard. She said that before the fire on September 1, she had already approached the owners to buy their business.

“After the fire, I called [Plank] and she priced it and we kind of went from there,” Nelson said.

“Now we will be the Country Corner Cafe on Main Street,” Nelson said when asked what title the business would retain.

Nelson purchased the Main Street Cafe on January 26 and resumed operation on January 28, after which they spent long hours preparing the business for the way Nelson wanted to run things and reopened on February 1. “We wanted to incorporate everything together. We didn’t want to get rid of our name or our reputation. They even have staff from both companies.

“We will remain non-smoking,” Nelson said, something they adjusted at the Country Corner Cafe two years ago during their renovation. Main Street was also already smoke-free when Nelson bought it.

They had a rocky start, according to Nelson. They opened and that same day the computers crashed. They only had to pay in cash and pay the tax by hand.

“People noticed we all looked tired,” Nelson said. “It’s because we are tired.”

“We’re also struggling a bit with wait times,” she said. Nelson said she had employees at the Country Corner Cafe who were unfamiliar with the layout and equipment of the Main Street kitchen. On top of that, the Main Street Cafe employees don’t know about the menu that Nelson brought with her.

“Currently we are running a temporary menu and will be adding more options now that we have more space,” Nelson said.

The Party Hall is also still available for reservations, Nelson said. “I actually threw my first party on Tuesday (January 28) and they were all extremely happy,” she said.

Starting February 7, Country Corner Cafe on Main Street is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week.

“Hopefully once we have more staff we will stay open until eight o’clock, but at the moment we just don’t have enough people,” she said.

Nelson also said they plan to offer breakfast and lunch buffets on weekends.

Nelson asks the community to be patient with them during this time of transition.

“We’re all learning and we’re all trying to do our best,” she said.

Nelson said it’s extremely important to her that her business retain that “local charm” which she says is essential for good business.

“I’ve always been down to earth,” Nelson said. “I go out into the dining room and personally build relationships with my customers.”

“It’s really getting to know people that is worth it,” she said. Things like knowing when people have a new baby in their family or knowing when people have lost a loved one are important to Nelson. “It’s something she also encourages her employees to do.

“We want that home feeling,” she said. “I think it’s something that gets lost over time. Owners need to go out and talk to their customers,” Nelson said. After all, it’s the customers who make it all possible. “And you never know, you could do their whole day, you could do their whole month,” she said.

“When people walk through our door, I want everyone to feel welcome,” she said.


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