The North Bend Eagle


Corner Cafe
Mary and Darrell Ritenour stand in the café where they have serves meals for 18 years.

Ritenours ready to retire from Corne Café

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 5/28/14

Darrell and Mary Ritenour announced they would retire from the Corner Café at the end of 2014. But someone to take over the North Bend landmark was found sooner, so their retirement moved up to the end of May.

And they are ready to go. Darrell, 75, and Mary, 69, have been running the Corner Café for 18 years and two months. Not that they are counting.

Beth Schneider of Snyder will take over the managing of the local establishment.
The Ritenours moved to North Bend in May 1986. Darrell had a job at Hormel and they wanted to live in a small town to raise their children. After looking at towns surrounding Fremont, they chose North Bend.

After renting for a while, they purchased a home where they still and will continue to live.

Daughter Linda had already graduated from high school, while son Darrell Jr. and daughters Lori and Stephannie went on to graduate from North Bend Central High School.

Mary, a native of Grand Island, worked as a car hop after high school. When her children were small, she stayed home, babysat and worked part time at eating establishments. In Doniphan Mary had operated a café.

Darrell, a native of Seneca, has had four jobs in his lifetime, the rail road for three years, construction for seven years, packing houses for 36 years, and chief cook at the Corner since retiring from Hormel in 2001.

The Corner Café was built as a bank in 1882, which closed with the crash of 1929. R.S. Dunlap from Prague purchased the building that same year and made it into a café. A number of owners followed. After a year empty, Ron Ondracek and Tom and Deanna Wolf purchased the building in January 1996 and did extensive renovations.

The group approached Mary and asked if she would operate a café in the building. She agreed, took time to clean and paint the interior, and opened March 26, 1996.

“I was up at 4 a.m. (that first day) to make rolls,” Mary said. “I didn’t realize I had quick rising yeast. I waited, cooked, cleaned until 8 p.m. then dragged my body home.”

The café was open evenings until other establishments in town were open evenings. The Ritenours settled into their 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. hours.
Aside from the seasonal decor, the Ritenours have changed little at the café. They moved the salad bar, put in a hot food bar for breakfast buffets and put in booths a few years ago.

“The menu hasn’t changed much,” Mary said. Her pies, rolls and noon specials have been the mainstay of the Corner Café offerings.

Mary and Darrell agreed that they will miss the people the most. They have 18 years of great memories to look back on.

“Interesting people have stopped by,” Mary said.

Mary remembers around 1999 the BRAN, Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska, drove through North Bend during a bad rain storm. The Corner was swamped with people. Mary had already called in extra help.

“A guy stuck his head in the kitchen and said he knew how to make malts, and started to make malts for the crowd. Others started cleaning off the tables. They just pitched in and helped.”

For a few Old Settlers they stayed open until the dance was over and were swamped with people. The next time she did this Mary stuck to the breakfast buffet.

As they have gotten older, the Ritenours have cut back on catering and the late breakfasts.

“We’ve enjoyed it,” Mary said. “It has been hard, but as we got older, it was harder.”

The Ritenours have had good help over the years. Lois Kreitman started cooking for them in fall 1996. Waitresses Monica Glodowski has been with them 10 years, Amanda Vyhlidal and Jeanette Renard, 8 years, and Mikayla Renard, 6 years. Others have been there to fill in. With the help of these girls they have been able to take vacations.

Through the years they had high school girls and one boy work for them. They also give credit to their children for helping them out.

“They were all super kids,” Mary said of the high schoolers and added a compliment to the present staff. “The girls have made it easy.”

The Ritenours have no great plans for retirement.

“Sleep in,” Mary said, admitting that she is not a morning person. “I have 18 years of neglect in my house to catch up on.”

Customer Joie Kavan said Darrell can join them in playing pitch and sheephead at the Senior Center.

Darrell said his plans are to fish, garden, “do work that I let go for the last 18 years.”

Mary said they will need to get in the groove of eating at home. She said they have got in the routine of eating out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays with friends Clements, Nissens and Mylanders. Thursday or Fridays they would do their shopping and probably eat out also.

“Its been enjoyable,” Mary said. “We got to know a lot of people. It’s amazing when new people come in, we’ll talk and find they know someone or have been somewhere we know.”

“Like I tell the girls, thank the customers for walking through the door,” Mary said. And so she does as she retires.

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