BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With less than a dozen years before its 100th birthday and just past the 25th anniversary under current ownership, the 10th Street Station has been sold.
Dave Taylor, a 1982 graduate of Fort Madison Community High School, purchased the landmark diner from Bill and Donna Fraune a couple weeks ago and was in town this week looking at operations.
Taylor, just prior to the purchase, was living in Sandusky, Ohio and working at the Sandusky State Theater in a town he says is very similar to Fort Madison. But in the past year, Taylor said he’s lost three family members and every time he comes back to the area the family would meet at the diner.
“Every time I would come to town my dad would say, ‘You know, the diner’s for sale.’,” Taylor said. “But I never saw a for sale sign so I never talked to Donna or Bill. But the last time I was here with my sister and that was the first time I saw the sign and said, ‘Dad’s been talking to me about buying this for years’, so I said you know let’s take a look.”
“Bill and Donna have strived for food presented in a nice way, simple, and tasty and I’m not gonna mess with that.”
But he said the real testament to their operations is that two of the employees have a combined 30 years working for the Fraunes.
“You just don’t find that in this industry anymore.”
Taylor started working out of high school in the Quad Cities for a lumber company and then joined the army for four years and went on active duty for four years. He then did a stint with Gordon’s Jewelers before going to Sangamon State College in Springfield to work as an assistant ticket manager for the college auditorium. He stayed there for 17 years before leaving as the director of the venue. He then moved to McKinney Texas, just outside of Dallas and opened a rehabilitated historic theater and then worked for two years with the Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas, before moving to Sandusky.
“At each of the theaters I’ve managed there’s been some type of kitchen, but running a diner is something outside the norm. But it’s one of those things that’s a no brainer,” Taylor said. “Your grandpa came here, my dad came here. I don’t want to tamper with it…I’m not going to change it. The menu’s pretty much going to stay the same.”
He said he would also like to plan for some special events and even possibly some sampling.
“I’m going to be doing some taste testing and doing some special events. I’ve got a couple of ideas of things I’ve done in other communities that could be fun here, but I’m gonna wait on that for now.”
Physically he wants to take the building back to a retro 30s or 40s theme and wants to incorporate local groups or schools in the process possibly even having the school involved in some of the refurbing of the building.
“Aesthetically I’d like to get the building back to a period look. We’re gonna be a hundred in about 13 years so it we would be very cool to have a retro look to the thing,” he said.
“I wanted to continue that legacy the Fraunes have helped create and not upset the apple cart.”
Fraune has owned the business with her husband Bill for the past 25 years.
“I’m just greatly relieved. I’m happy its sold and I’m ready to do other things,” Fraune said. “We have grandkids that don’t live here so I’m looking forward to that.”
But Fraune said she can’t get too far away from the business she’s done for the better part of a quarter century.
“I’d like to work a couple days a week and help where I can,” she said.
The local counter luncheon has been in operation for 88 years in a few different hands and a few different names, but has always had a steady flow of regular customers and Fraune said she’ll probably miss that the most.
“That’s been the best part,” she said. “And we’ve gotten to know so many people that have continued to come back every year. We’ve gotten really close to a lot of people.”
She said she hopes some of the things stay the same, but indicated that new ideas can be good.
“I think everybody has new ideas and things they want to try.”
Taylor said the customer base has been built on staples at the diner and folks have nothing to fear.
“I may broaden the breakfast menu, but the maid-rites are a staple… the tenderloins are a staple… the soups are fantastic and pies, I don’t want to mess with any of that. There may be some tweaking of things and the generation x and y eating habits are different. They are looking for different things. But I’m not going to mess with what’s working,” Taylor said.
Sunday hours with four churches within a few blocks and partnering with the theater for some special events may also be on the horizon.
Taylor said he actually looked at purchasing the theater because of his background, but he said he got a call and someone had put in a bid on the theater.
“I said no problem, they can take the theater and I’ll take the diner.”
Taylor also said he has been very involved in the community and encourages people to reach out to him. “I’m gonna be involved in the Main Street, I want to be involved in the Chamber, but other groups should feel welcome to reach out. I just love being involved in the community’s groups.”
“There’s a bigger picture here, but you start small so you can get a feel for things.”