In The Pipeline: Alice's will remain in our hearts forever

September 15, 2010|By Chris Epting
  • Alice on her last day of business.
Alice on her last day of business. (HB Independent )

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

So wrote Louis L'Amour, and had "America's Storyteller" ever tasted one of the cinnamon rolls at Alice's Breakfast in the Park, he might have asked afterwards, "Uhm, and where might these be sold after everything is finished?"

That's one of several questions that arose naturally Sunday morning, as proprietor Alice Gustafson and I had breakfast one last time in her restaurant.

One last time, because it was her last day in business.

And so, for a lazy couple of hours, Alice, my son, Charlie, and our friend Richard Reinbolt sat and talked, laughed and dabbed a few tears.

It was important to me that Richard join us for a couple of reasons. First, it was two years ago that he and I met because of Alice's. I'd written a couple of columns in this paper decrying the fact that the city seemed bent on evicting Alice over lease issues. Richard (a regular customer) went further, gathering 2,000 signatures on a petition and, in a memorable speech, made his case at a City Council meeting, along with Alice and many others.


Their efforts bought the place two years so Alice could go out the way she intended — on her own terms. The former schoolteacher won me over with his tenacious, erudite command of the situation. We became friends.

Second, Richard also suffered a tragic loss recently. The woman he adored died of cancer, and we had a long-promised plan to meet at Alice's and talk about his beloved Guila. Alice's is a place where you'd do important things like celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and recall memories of a loved one.

And so on this last day, we looked at photos of Guila and talked about her.

Of course, we talked about Alice, too. Weary but still twinkle-eyed, the woman, who for more than 20 years ran this little treasure of a place, smiled gamely.

"This place was never about the money, just the people," she said.

In between our meal, longtime customers come over to pay their respects.

"This is the last breakfast, not the Last Supper," Richard said, to lighten the mood.

The famous cinnamon rolls arrived — perfect as always.

Many of the knick knacks had come down, but the place still had a cozy, parlor-meets-attic atmosphere, like we'd tumbled into some nostalgic little rabbit hole where civility, manners and good conversation still count for something.

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