- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

EDEN, S.D. (AP) - For small South Dakota towns, having at least one business is vital to keeping them on the map, so to speak.

Search a map and northeast of Webster and you’ll find Eden, a town with a population of about 90.

That’s where a group of local investors pooled their resources to start Club Eden, a combination restaurant, bar, coffee spot and social hub, the Aberdeen American News (https://bit.ly/1QMevPV ) reported.

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“We knew we needed something here, but we didn’t know how we were going to go about it,” manager Jenny Roerig said.

With one suggestion, word spread and the problem was solved.

Club Eden opened in May 2005 with 20 investors from the town, surrounding areas and even other states.

“We have investors in Eden, Britton, Webster, Pierpont, Roslyn, Langford, Watertown, Sisseton, Sioux Falls and even Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Roerig said.

Some of those investors were quite young 16 years ago, and their inclusion in the business was vital, she said.

So much so that those 30 or younger could work off their investments by painting, assisting with bookkeeping, serving, tending bar or volunteering at the bar or restaurant until their investments were paid off.

All they had to do was work off the investment within one year.

Furthering the affordability of the long-term investment was pricing each share reasonably - $500. Investors could choose how many shares they wanted to purchase or work off.

Having investors has helped the business in more way than one, Roerig said.

“If you have an investment in something, you’ll help bring people in,” she explained.

Yet no one imagined the investment would hold the level of popularity that it does today.

“We just hoped it would be successful. Especially in a small town, there needs to be a gathering place,” Roerig said.

Location helps, Roerig hinted. Eden is only 20 minutes from a multitude of other small towns and just 15 minutes from 15 lakes, which helps lure hunters, anglers and those who love the outdoors.

Regular patron Jannine Fagerland said Club Eden is popular because the town serves as a central hub for the surrounding area.

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Chicken wings are on sale on Wednesday nights, and regularly draw a big crowd. But the atmosphere is another reason locals love Club Eden.

The business’s motto is: Come as a stranger, leave as a friend.

“And we really mean that,” Roerig said.

Among the regulars are people of all different ages - from families with young kids to high-schoolers to senior citizens. And some folks find themselves at the business a few times a day.

The café serves the area’s Senior Meals program that draws 25 to 30 people for lunch. Some stop in the morning for breakfast or coffee, swing back for lunch, then stop again for afternoon coffee. Sometimes, a few will return in the evening, particularly on wing night.

“This is our third time here today,” Carol Lee Michlitsch said Wednesday evening.

“When you come here on Wednesday night, you see others from nearby towns,” Michlitsch said. “It’s a social event.”

“In the summer, you eat fries and wings and go next door for ice cream,” Diane Sommers said. “And then you go home and say the diet starts tomorrow.”

The ladies estimate they are at Club Eden at least five days a week. Karen Steiner joins the two for coffee at least three times a week and always after Mass.

“We’re a faithful bunch,” the ladies proclaimed.

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Roerig described Eden as a business-based town. For as small as it is, the town “pretty much has it all,” she said after rattling off a list of businesses. The list included a bank, real estate agent, insurance company, hairdresser, lumberyard, repair shop and grocery/gas station.

This time of year, there are about 35 Club Eden employees. Roerig said the trick to having and keeping such good workers is flexibility.

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Information from: Aberdeen American News, https://www.aberdeennews.com


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