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Missy Leigh runs cafes at Carpio and Lansford

The soup’s on again every day at the cafe in Carpio, simmering in a slow cooker on a shelf behind the counter. Just don’t ask owner and head cook Melissa Leigh what she calls it.

7/27/11 (Wed)

 

The soup’s on again every day at the cafe in Carpio, simmering in a slow cooker on a shelf behind the counter.

 

Just don’t ask owner and head cook Melissa Leigh what she calls it.

 

“All my soups, I make from scratch,” Leigh said, laughing as she described how she combines ingredients that sound appealing together on any given day. “I don’t really have names for them, but [the customers] seem to love my soup!”

 

Leigh opened for business at Missy’s Cafe in Carpio on July 6th. Hours are 7 am to 2 pm Monday through Saturday and 10 am to 2 pm on Sundays. “Sometimes we run a little bit longer [on Sundays] with the church rush,” she said.

 

Missy’s Cafe is the second restaurant for this 31-year-old mother of three. She opened the Lansford Cafe in January 2010, and operates both businesses under lease agreements from the respective community development corporations.

 

Considering the fact her family lives in Glenburn, the idea of running two cafes in two other towns sounded ridiculous to many of her friends. Buzzing around Ward and Renville counties in her Kia Spectra suits Leigh just fine, though. “I grew up on a farm outside of Deering,” she said. “It’s a lot of driving, but it’s worth it.”

 

She paused for a moment to take a cell phone call from her cook in Lansford and gave directions about when to start the soup and boiling water to cook the pasta for the day’s special, chicken alfredo.

 

Chicken alfredo was also listed as the lunch special on a dry erase board Leigh has hanging in the Carpio location. “For specials, I try to keep both restaurants the same,” she explained as she snapped the phone closed.

 

Her noon specials feature generous portions of entrees with all the trimmings, including soup, vegetables and some type of bread, always priced at $7.25. Customers can order off the menu as well, which includes a variety of sandwiches and sides, and breakfast is served all day.

 

Of course, Leigh makes desserts available. “All our baked goods are homemade, with two different kinds of pie every day,” she said, “and we always have caramel rolls and cookies.”

 

So far, the breakfast crowd in Carpio has been small, despite the full coffee pot, but Leigh is pleased with the lunchtime demand. “Once 11 o’clock comes, we don’t slow down until 1:30!” she said.

 

Leigh wants all her customers to know they can approach her with both compliments and complaints. “I’m always open to suggestions, positive or negative,” she said.

 

She told one story about her regular coffee crowd in Lansford who never ordered sausage links with the morning special. After a few months, Leigh went up to the table to ask them why, and they confessed they preferred the links cooked another way. She obliged and the links have been a popular item since then.

 

“If you want me to cook something differently, tell me,” she said. “I’m always open to improvement!”

 

To test her, one Carpio customer who ate her chili last week asked if she knew how to make a chicken corn chowder. She put it on the menu for the next day.

 

Senior meals available now

Seniors in Carpio are welcome to stop in at Missy’s Cafe for meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “They can come in for the lunch special at a reduced cost,” Leigh said, adding that the program is coordinated by the Minot Commission on the Aging.

 

Leigh would like to see more seniors take advantage of the program. “Even if they’re not a resident of Carpio, they can still come here and get the senior meals,” she said.

 

As the demand for the senior meals increases in Carpio, Leigh hopes to expand the offerings to five days. “In Lansford, I offer senior meals five days a week and we have people coming from Mohall and Glenburn,” she said. “They know they can get fed really well!”

 

Loves to cook, but credits staff and family with success

Leigh has experience in several restaurants, including Kroll’s Diner and Captain’s Cove in Minot. “I got my cooking abilities and skills from my father,” she said, adding that he cooked at the former restaurant in Parker, which now operates as a senior center. “My business skills, I learned from the owners of Captain’s Cove, where I worked for seven years off and on from 2001 to 2010.”

 

After she started at the Lansford Cafe, she was working on a deal for second restaurant in a nearby town that fell through. “When I saw Carpio was advertising for someone, I decided to take it over,” she said. “I know a lot of small towns have a hard time finding someone to cook and run the place at the same time.”

 

She laughed. “Everyone thought I was crazy, and that I wasn’t going to have time to run two places, but I wanted to share what I have to offer with my cooking skills in the small towns!” she said. “I love cooking for other people.”

 

Leigh is quick to credit her employees for both cafes’ success. “I’ve got an excellent staff and if it wasn’t for them, I couldn’t do what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m grateful for the cooks that I have. They cook the speed that I cook, and cook exactly like I cook.”

 

Carpio customers will meet Jason Hubsky, a friend of Leigh’s since 2001, who cooks full-time at Missy’s Cafe and oversees the daily operations. Leigh’s younger sister Jennifer Ingold works part-time at the Carpio location, after spending the past year and a half at the Lansford Cafe.

 

Two teens from Glenburn will finish the summer with part-time hours at Missy’s Cafe, but Leigh is looking for another server to hire.

 

“I also have my father on the weekends,” she added and smiled. “He likes to tell everyone he’s the boss then.”

 

Leigh’s children follow their mother into the restaurant, too. Daughter Paige, 13, has filled in some hours as a server and become quite proficient. Daughter Alyson, age 6-going-on-24 according to her mother, puts her apron on every morning to take charge in the kitchen until Leigh gets her off to daycare or school. Son John is just 14 months old, but he was born shortly after Leigh started running the Lansford Cafe. Husband Chris is on the road almost as much as his wife as he heads to Berthold every morning, where he owns and operates Computer Hobbies.

 

As if she didn’t have enough to do with the two cafes and her household, Leigh takes classes online from Minot State University to finish requirements for her bachelor’s degree in business administration. “In the winter, during my slow hours in the afternoon, I can sit and do my homework,” she said, laughing again as she described her Lansford customers teasing her about playing on the Internet. “I have my textbooks stacked up in the back of the restaurant there.”

 

This summer, Leigh starts most mornings at Missy’s Cafe in Carpio and runs through the plans for the day with her staff there. By 9:30 am, she checks the special, fills her mug from the coffee pot and heads down the road for the Lansford Cafe.

 

She wouldn’t trade her customers, her commutes or her small town locations. “I’m very excited for both my cafes,” she said. “I love doing what I do. I started working when I was 15, but it’s always come back to cooking!”