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Ethan Needs Us

Jan 11, 2012

We've dropped by Cook's Inn in Ethan more than once through the years. The little Main Street eatery has been operated for many years by Marilyn Thill. It was just another small town restaurant to me, but it was much more than that to the locals. 

It took several visits for me to understand that Marilyn and her restaurant were a lifeline to many folks in the little town south of Mitchell. She stocked a few grocery staples for senior citizens who had no other access to groceries. She delivered meals to home-bound neighbors — a Meals on Wheels without the paperwork or fuss. Free cookies and candies were often left on the counter for people who were in too big of a hurry for a meal or for kids who didn't have a dollar but needed a snack.

Hanging on the back wall was Helen Garvis' spoon collection. Helen was a beloved local farmwife who liked to collect spoons as she traveled. When she died, Marilyn bought the spoon collection because she thought it should be kept together. She hung it in the restaurant, and Helen's friends found a lot of comfort in being able to see the spoons when they visited for soup or a sandwich.

Of course, nothing continues forever. Marilyn has been past retirement age for a few years now. She didn't want to leave the town without a restaurant, so she was happy to lease it to a fellow before she stepped away. 

Unfortunately, the man who leased it to didn't have her business acumen — and he soon abandoned the place in a condition that is unfit to operate. Marilyn wants to reopen it but she doesn't have the cash to do the repairs. Recognizing all she did through the years for the community, two local men have begun a fund drive to raise about $1,000 for the needed improvements. Mel Weber of Mitchell and Dennis Puepke of Parkston told the Mitchell Daily Republic that anyone interested may send a few dollars to the Farmers State Bank in Parkston. They don't expect anybody to send a lot ... but if you want to do a small kindness (the kind Marilyn did every day she was at the restaurant), send $5 or $10. 

We'll let you know if she gets it reopened. Then we can all stop by for a cheeseburger and see Helen's spoons.


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