WINTERSET, Iowa - Nearly 100 years ago, during Iowa's prohibition years, the owner of Northside Cafe in Winterset, Harry Gaspari, knew how to make his customers happy; a cigar box, hidden behind the counter, stored "a little extra something" for his morning patrons' coffee. That's how the story goes, at least.
That same cigar case still greets visitors as they walk through the heavy screen door at Northside Cafe today.
"This place is full of stories," said current owner, Michele Jahncke. "We want to bring more stories here."
2016 marks the 140th year Northside Cafe has sat on the town square in Winterset. According to Jahncke's research, the building was one of the first brick-and-mortar constructions in the entire square - arguably making it as old as Winterset, as we know it today. With a past so powerful, it can still be felt today, and Jahncke's ready to bring her cafe into the future.
“This year our town square was placed on the National Historic Register,” Jahncke said. “And this historic anniversary was perfect timing to add something that hasn’t been in this town since before prohibition.”
This summer, Northside Cafe will add a new endeavor to its legacy: a craft beer brewery.
“It’s an opportunity to toast the rich and colorful past as well as look forward.” said Walter Jahncke, Michele's husband and co-owner of the cafe. “There’s a lot to celebrate here, both past, present and future.”
With business partner, Scott Valencia, the Jahncke's are taking a leap of faith in Middle River Brewing Company; the brewery will exist on the second floor of the cafe, and its craft beers will be sold downstairs in the same spot made famous by Robert James Waller, who wrote the iconic novel, "The Bridges of Madison County," in the third booth from the door. Clint Eastwood, during the filming of the movie adaptation, sat in the fourth stool from the door - a popular choice of seat for many tourists to this day.
The Jahncke's are only the newest owners of Northside Cafe, taking over four years ago. The cafe itself has served Winterset residents and visitors alike since 1876. Once the brewery opens this summer, it will be the first brewery to exist in the town since prohibition.
The cafe will celebrate its 140th anniversary on Saturday, March 5 from 4 to 8 p.m. The evening will include free Iowa native craft beer flights, as well as special prices on menu items. Northside Cafe is located at 61 E. Jefferson St., on the north side of Winterset's town square.
An IndieGoGo fundraising campaign seeks to raise $15,000 from the community to help restore Northside Cafe's historic storefront, as well as help Middle River Brewing Company take off. You can donate here.