- Associated Press - Monday, August 31, 2015

LANE, S.D. (AP) - There aren’t many places doing business in Lane, South Dakota.

There’s an auto repair shop and used cars being shopped along the highway that skirts the town. For almost all the other needs, Shirley Hines’ cafe is the spot, The Daily Republic (https://bit.ly/1JhLcRA ) reported.

Aptly named Shirley’s Lane Cafe, the business is open six days a week, serving morning coffee and lunch specials. But the cafe is much more than a place for a hot meal and fellowship.

It’s also the Lane Post Office. And the Lane Town Board’s meeting location. And Hines is also the town board’s chairwoman and mayor.

In more ways than one, it’s the town’s lifeblood.



Hines is humble, but busy. Being a business owner, postmaster and mayor_and sometimes all at the same time_is no small job.

“I enjoy doing it,” she said. “I’d hate to do it if I hated the job.”

For now, business and the small town of Lane keep beating. And a major reason for that is Hines, the multi-talented business owner. Without Hines, Lane probably wouldn’t be Lane, local residents agree.

The cafe Hines runs clearly is the hub of the town, according to John Pflaum.

“It definitely helps,” said Pflaum, who owns the Lane Garage. “The more the merrier, I think, because there’s not much else here.”

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The cafe and post office are located in a two-story white house, located in the center of town, on one of the many dirt streets in the community. The town of “58 or 59 people,” according to Hines, is located in Jerauld County between Wessington Springs and Woonsocket.

Four years ago, Lane voted on whether to dissolve its title as an incorporated town. But a healthy majority backed keeping the town intact. Even though Lane residents pay a higher tax levy than other communities do for services, Hines thinks the town remains on solid ground.

“People like it here,” she said. “This is a nice place to live.”

Pflaum said one of the best parts about staying incorporated is having a snow plow blade of its own, meaning the town can be plowed out faster and not be “on someone’s list.”

“There were so many different thoughts on the way that went, and to me, Lane is one of those things where the beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Pflaum said. “I don’t look for the town to change much in the coming years.”

Hospitality, such as serving coffee and breakfast each day starting at 8 a.m., makes Pflaum’s statement hold weight.

Hines, who carries a no-nonsense demeanor, sells all-you-can drink coffee for 30 cents. She doesn’t have time to watch the coffee pot, so it’s self-serve for customers.

“I’ve got enough to do where I don’t need to sit over the coffee pot all day,” Hines said.

On a typical day, seven to 10 people will come in for breakfast and about 20 people will make their way in for lunch.

On a recent Monday, it’s roast beef day. Wednesday is traditionally pork chops. Some items_such as a hamburger and a rib sandwich_are regulars on the menu.

The cafe is also part convenience store, with chips, gum and cans of soda on sale, or cough drops or a lighter. There are also some other goods, such as sugar or flour and boxes of pasta. Hines says she only stocks items that she uses for cafe meals.

Those who live in town are more likely to stop for a snack, while the out-of-town farmers typically make up the meal crowd.

There are about 90-minute segments during the morning hours and at lunchtime when the cafe is at its busiest. It’s a frequent location for farmers to have lunch.

Hines is the long-time proprietor. She has run the cafe since 1996, and her home is across the street from the cafe.

There’s no signage indicating the cafe is in town, aside from the black lettering on the house’s exterior. She said someone has found her cafe by using a car’s GPS, however.

“I think some people are still surprised that there’s a cafe in town,” she said. “I guess that’s OK.”

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Hines is contracted with the U.S. Postal Service to serve as Lane’s postmaster, and she can provide longer service hours than what Lane would have otherwise.

She points to other small communities in the area that have seen their post offices almost shrivel up completely.

“You can buy stamps online,” she said. “That’s all you ever see on TV. And it’s certainly not good for business here.”

Wessington Springs supervises the Lane post office, and the mail typically arrives at 11:30 a.m. Hines helps get the mail in line, as rural carriers shuffle in and out around the lunch hour, and tries to have the mail in the post office boxes by 1 p.m. each day.

She’s never taken a vacation day from her six-day-per-week job. She closed the cafe once earlier this year for her mother’s funeral and still opened for a few hours later that day.

“Haven’t yet,” said Hines about vacations. “Maybe someday.”

Each job also brings out the complainers, whether it’s over raising the cost of a can of soda years ago or when the mail is placed in the boxes.

“Sometimes I wonder if the check is in the mail because it feels like someone else bought the place and is calling the shots now,” she jokes about bossy customers. “You have some sarcastic people in here. You get them everywhere, I suppose.”

Pflaum said the cafe is nice because it allows locals to stay in town to send a package or buy a gallon of milk, rather than traveling to another nearby community when they’re in need of something.

Hines has been a Lane-lifer, even if she’s left a few times off and on. She ended up on the town board because she wanted to give another person a break. Now they’re both on the board again.

“It’s an appointed position,” she said, of being mayor. “The title is the best part.”

Pflaum has lived in Lane for his whole life and is in his second stint on the town board.

“It’s one of those thankless jobs,” he said.

The three-person town board meets at the lunch counter of the cafe. Some of the town business is pretty standard. A local sanitation company is raised its garbage rates, the town needs to keep up with maintenance equipment and a culvert is needed for a local ditch.

“This is where all the business gets done,” said Nikki VonEye, Lane’s part-time finance officer. “I guess you could say that.”

True to a small town, those in the community have a good idea of what’s going on around the community.

Hines is particularly excited about the potential of a new home in town, which she says would be the first in almost 12 years. Pflaum said when a Jerauld County Sheriff’s Deputy moved to town, that was a helpful addition, as well.

Any sign of growth is welcome.

Hines deflects the idea that she has much of a role in keeping the community alive, but she wonders what would happen if there weren’t someone to run the cafe, or manage the mail.

“I don’t know what would happen,” she said. “I guess I’d rather not find out.”

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Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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