By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
In October of 2009, Joann and I took a short trip to Minnesota. We stayed the night in Lanesboro Minnesota in a small quaint motel. As is our usual routine, we got up early, packed up the car, and headed downtown. It’s the best time of the day to capture photos in town without traffic or parked cars.
Driving down the main street of town, we noticed a diner car parked in a narrow lot. The outside was looking good, but a small handwritten note told of the ongoing restoration by Val and Gordon Tindall.
In the fall of 2011, we found ourselves back in Lanesboro. As we stopped to check on the diner, Joann encountered a man waiting patiently on a bench for his wife. He tried to guess the meaning of her license plates, associating the PKR in SHNPKR with the Packers since we were from Wisconsin.
Joann told him that the plates referred to our “shunpiking” hobby and then she explained the meaning of the word. He liked the word, and asked Joann what she was going to photograph. She pointed to the diner, and his response was “Oh, look at that.” Apparently, he had not noticed the diner before then.
He said that he used to come to Lanesboro to hunt pheasant and deer and that it was totally run down in those days. In the 1970’s the town’s main street was mostly in disrepair and many buildings were boarded up. The Milwaukee Railroad closed its route through Lanesboro and sold the 1870 depot to an individual who tore it down.
This action spurred the citizens to form a volunteer task force to revitalize the town. In 1985, the entire downtown district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1986, the Root River Bike Trail opened and brought new business to town.
When Gordon first saw the diner, it was a sagging mess with no windows or doors and no interior. Even so, he saw its possibilities and took on its restoration.
When Val and Gordon visited Lanesboro on a family vacation, they thought the town would be perfect for a diner. Gordon had been operating a diner in Towanda, PA and was beginning restoration of the Spud Boy Lunch in his spare time. His wife was living in Decorah, IA and he wanted to move back to the Midwest. The diner was moved to Lanesboro in November of 2008 and restoration continued.
The diner was built by the Goodell Dining Car Company in Silver Creek, New York in 1927, and operated under various names in Wellington Ohio from 1927 until 2002. It is the last known Goodell diner in existence, and is one of only two wooden diners still in operation. The name Spud Boy refers to Gordon’s nickname as a boy being raised on a New Jersey potato farm.
As I was preparing for this post, I did a search on Spud Boy Diner and found an article from the Post-Bulletin in Rochester, MN stating that the diner had opened for business in May of this year. The diner is open for breakfast and lunch.
A quote from the diner's website proclaims “To us, it will always be the little diner that died and went to heaven, I mean Lanesboro. Val & Gordon Tinsdall 2011”.
If you make it to Lanesboro, take a stroll down the historic main street and stop in at the restored Spud Boy Lunch.