- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

THORNTON, Iowa (AP) - A small northern Iowa town is losing a favored gathering place, the Chit Chat Cafe.

Owner Richard Dorenkamp told the Mason City Globe Gazette (https://bit.ly/1iqvB4Y ) that he must close the Thornton restaurant after 39 years because business has waned in the town of around 400 and his health has declined.

Over the years the Chit Chat Cafe became a popular place for Sunday dinners, morning coffee, birthday parties and anniversaries and other special events.

But there are fewer people living on nearby farms now. A railroad no longer goes through town, and the Thornton school closed in 2008. Few businesses remain on Thornton’s Main Street.

“There used to be basketball games, football games and all of the other activities,” Dorenkamp said. “You used to be closer to the people.”

The last Sunday dinners will be served this weekend, and the Chit Chat will close for good on June 27.

The cafe is filled with memorabilia, including a number of Marilyn Monroe mementos in the restaurant’s east addition. Most of it will be auctioned off Aug. 6 in nearby Latimer. The business itself will be auctioned off the next week.

Dorenkamp said it’s not what he wants but something he must do.

“I’m not particularly liking it, but my choices are few,” he said.

Shirley Proctor, who runs the cafe and has worked there since 1978, said the business has been busy with longtime customers since the announcement that the restaurant would close. Proctor also plans to retire.

“Since we announced we’re closing, people want that one last hurrah,” Proctor said.

For Dorenkamp, it will mean that after nearly four decades, he no longer needs to get up at 5 a.m. to ensure hot coffee is ready for his early morning customers.

“Somehow I’ll lay back down and maybe take a nap,” Dorenkamp said.

___

Information from: Globe Gazette, https://www.globegazette.com/

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