Wild Rose Cafe, Big Rapids, closing after 16 years


BIG RAPIDS — After 16 years of serving Big Rapids residents and visitors, the Wild Rose Café is closing permanently on June 12.

By preparing home-cooked meals, including homemade chili and soups, fresh salads, juicy burgers and more, using local ingredients, owner Elaine Sanford has built up a clientele of repeat customers who are very sad to see the restaurant close.

“There were more tears shed than I’ve ever seen in my life,” Sanford said. “My customers are so upset.”

Sanford explained that following an inspection by the insurance company that covers the building, it was determined that some of the building’s equipment did not meet fire codes and should be repaired or replaced.

She and the owners of the building decided it would be too expensive to bring the equipment up to code, so she made the choice to close the restaurant, she added.

“I’ve been here 16 years and I’ve invested way too much money in it,” Sanford said. “I just don’t want to do it anymore, so I chose to close.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do a GoFundMe page, and I’ve had offers for people to lend me money, but that said, with a problem comes more,” she said. “It’s a very old building, so when it starts it’s the next thing, and the next. With a building that’s not mine, I just don’t think it makes sense to invest more money in it. .

Sunday, June 12 will be the last day Sanford cooks, she said. On Monday, June 13, she’ll be hosting a party from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the public to come in and say goodbye, while enjoying some of her pre-prepared food options.

“We’ll have our last hurrah, just to say goodbye to everyone,” she said.

Operating the Wild Rose Café has been an overall positive experience for her, she said, although it has had its ups and downs.

“We have been closed for COVID for 137 days,” Sanford said. “We were afraid of not getting out of it. It took us about a year to relaunch the business. Some customers still won’t come in. They will call and place an order and pick it up from the backdoor.

“It kinda set us back a bit,” she continued. “But I have the best clientele in Big Rapids. These guys are above and beyond. My clients are everything, and without them, even mentally, I wouldn’t have survived. They are no longer just customers, they are a family. We so appreciate everyone who follows and those who support us.

Once the restaurant closes, Sanford said, she’s going to rest.

“It was supposed to be my hobby 16 years ago – it wasn’t a hobby,” she said. “So, I think I’ll find a hobby.”

One thing he is interested in is reaching out to older residents of the community to offer a helping hand or a listening ear.

“There are a lot of older people who just need someone to talk to,” she said. “So that will be my focus, reaching out to older residents and, at least, just having a chat with them and being there for them, because I feel they need it.”

She added that coming to restaurants has been like medicine for many of them for many years.

“My clients will tell you it’s the best medicine they could have gotten,” she said. “This (closure) sucks for them.”


The Wild Rose Café is located at 708 Maple Street in Big Rapids. The hours are: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays.

On the last day, June 13, the restaurant will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The grill will not be open, but buffet style service will be available.


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