Southern cooking, coming' up
If Jeannine Hensley was ever misplaced, she has certainly found her spot.
The Kasson resident and Arkansas native is establishing Misplaced Magnolia Southern Bistro and BBQ, in the former Leuthold’s Clothing and Shoes building at 107 W. Main St., Kasson.
It’s hoped that the restaurant billed as “The Mid-South meets the Midwest” will open in early October.
“And of course the magnolia tree only grows in the South,” Hensley said. “And someone, when I first moved to Minnesota, had called me ‘The misplaced magnolia.’ So that’s where the name comes from.
“It was kind of a joke: ‘Well, you’re just a misplaced magnolia,’” she said. “And I immediately thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a great name for a restaurant.’ Because I knew that I wanted to open the southern-themed restaurant up here in Minnesota. It clicked, and I liked it and I’ve had it written down in a notebook for years. So when we got ready to go, I just went right back to it.”
Hensley and her husband, Gerry, purchased the 1900 building in 2010 and began renovating it early this year.
Leauthold's closed in 2006 after more than 140 years in business. There was flooding in the empty building before Hensley cam along; water pipes burst because the heat had been turned off.
The ceiling had been painted black, and the paint was flaking off.
"It's pretty dreary," she said.
A company was hired to sand-blast the ceiling, and the Hensleys repainted it themselves, bring out the old, exquisite detail.
The couple is removing the flooring from the 1930's, which contained asbestos and was partially covered with carpeting from the '70s, to expose the original hardwood floor.
They also found original wiring, from the early days of electricity; old clay pipes that had to be removed; old plaster – the list continues.
“We’re trying to mix the new in with the old, and preserve the look of the building,” Hensley said. “With a building this old, you’ve got layers of old: You’ve got the ‘30s, you’ve got the ‘50s, you’ve got the ‘60s. You’ve just got to kind of chisel down, like an archaeologist, to get back to the bones.”
The Hensleys moved to Kasson about 11 years ago, when Gerry was hired by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He’s now employed by the U.S. Army Reserve.
Their daughter, Lauren, graduated from Kasson-Mantorville High School in 2014 and is studying at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“This became home, and we love it,” Jeannine Hensley said. “We love the town of Kasson, specifically. We like being in a small town. We love being able to walk to everything that we like to go to, to the grocery store, to the park, to the Fairgrounds, to Main Street. We love the school system. In fact, the school system is why we picked Kasson. Our daughter was only in the third grade when we moved to Kasson.
“We drew a circle around Rochester and gured, ‘This is how far we’re going to drive,’ and then started what we called ‘town- shopping,’” she said. “We went to all the small towns and looked to see what we liked, and then researched the school systems, and we picked Kasson and we couldn’t be happier.”
It will be nice, she said, for Kasson to have another dining option, to add variety and keep local dollars in Kasson.
In the meantime, she is learning from longtime residents who shopped at Leuthold’s and stop by to see what’s happening with the old place.
“I think a lot of residents are excited, because we’ve had so many people just stick their head in the front door when they see us, and say, ‘What are you doing,’ ‘Oh, we can’t wait,’ ‘Oh, I remember when ...’ Hensley said.
“I think it’s really important for us to start bringing some of these older buildings back here on Main Street, and not just contributing to the city, but contributing to the history.”
More Magnolia ...
Jeannine Hensley said the Misplaced Magnolia will serve specific types of barbeque, including Memphis-style pulled pork, dry-rub ribs, Texas beef brisket, and Southern smoked chicken.
“Occasionally we’ll through something special in there,” she said, “so everyone will have to come and check in and see if we’re running something different for that day.”
She will have a season- based chalkboard menu, from which diners can choose what they wish.
“It’ll be nice, where, if we run something and it doesn’t sell very well or it isn’t what the people in Kasson are looking for, then we erase it and try something new,” Hensley said.
The restaurant will seat up to 48 people. It will be open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner only for the first six months.
Once that’s mastered, Hensley said she will start opening for breakfast.
She said the restaurant will probably be open until around 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
She hopes to hire around 25 employees – probably eight to 10 full-time – and will try to make it all local talent.
“It’s nice, because we need more in Kasson,” Hensley said. “It’s not a lot of jobs that I’m offering, but it is giving some people the opportunity to work in the town where they live, instead of having to drive to Rochester.”
See misplacedmagnolia. com or the Facebook site for more information.