BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (ABC4) – The Idle Isle Café in Brigham City is celebrating 100 years of continued business, making it Utah’s oldest continuously operating restaurant.
Idle Isle owner Travis Porter and the Box Elder Chamber of Commerce are celebrating this milestone along with the rich history behind the business, according to Anna Loughridge, public relations manager for the Office of Tourism.
Porter tells ABC4 he and his wife Jana have now been owners of the Idle Isle Cafe for six years. Prior to being the owner, he managed the restaurant for nine years.
Porter says the restaurant has been in business since May 1, 1921. When it first opened, it was owned and operated by P.C. Knudson and his wife, Verabel, as an ice cream and candy store. The couple were later joined by Verabel’s brother, David H. Call and his wife LaRita, to form a full-service family restaurant.
The cafe stayed in the family until 1994. There are two portions of the business, Porter tells ABC4. “Two separate business, but we do share the name.”
The candy portion of the business still has ties to the Kunudson family, Porter shares
In 1994 Porter says his in-laws, the Jeppsen’s, took over the restaurant portion of the cafe and ran it up until 2015 when he took ownership.
Porter says even though things have changed over the years the Idle Isle Cafe, the name has allowed both businesses to carry on the legacy. He says he even feels the slip “allows us to thrive more than what we originally could have.”
After 100 years of business, Porter tells ABC4 “they consider us the longest continuously operating restaurants in the state of Utah.”
“That is something we are very proud of,” Porter adds.
For their 100th birthday, they decorated the restaurant, gave kids meals and drinks for $1, planned fun events for servers and customers, gave out some free meals, and hosted giveaways.
Porter says the Idle Isle Cafe is currently undergoing renovations to restore the restaurant to the 1920’s “look and feel.”
When the renovations are completed, Idle Isle Cafe hopes to hold an open house and host other special events to thank community members for years of support. “100 years in business is more than just one day,” Porter shares.
While the Idle Isle Cafe endured a century of ups and downs, this past year was perhaps the most challenging for the business.
Porter says when he took over in 2015, he had the “desire to really focus on the history and the story” of the cafe. He says over the last year, he’s tried to keep that focus in mind.
Despite his goal, Porter tells ABC4 this “last year really was hard.”
Prior to the pandemic, Idle Isle Cafe was coming off four years of record sales, according to Porter.
He says 2019 was a “really great year for us” and 2020 started out the same until the pandemic caused everything to come to a “screeching halt.”
As the effects of the pandemic set in, Porter says he almost had to make the decision to close his doors. He says he even had a letter typed up to give employees the notification that they would have to close, but “couldn’t do it.” He says he “couldn’t give up.”
The Idle Isle Cafe was able to qualify for loans, shop Utah grants, and paycheck protections. “Those were things that really helped us get through,” Porter shares.
He says he had a Vietnam vet uncle who was his inspiration. His dog tags and his watch sit on Porter’s desk. “Every day, they are right there as a visual reminder to keep fighting, keep going,” Porter adds.
The pandemic did cause the Idle Isle Cafe to cut down on employees. Porter says they went from 34 employed down to 12 during the pandemic. “It was a pretty dramatic blow to our team,” Porter says of the cuts.
Over the past 100 years, and especially over the past year, Porter says the Idle Isle Cafe could not have “endured” it without amazing staff, community support, and sacrifices from previous owners.
“There a lot of people who have shared a lot of care and concern, not just on the business side, but their personal concerns,” Porter shares. “It has really meant a lot to me.”
Now a few months into 2021, Porter says they “can breathe a little bit.”