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Everyday people: Holmes never thought he'd be working in the food industry

Ryan Holmes, along with wife Nicole, owns and operates Area 57 Coffee Café in Wanamingo. He said he loves seeing his customers enjoy the cafe. "I love people," he said. "I'm a people person."

WANAMINGO -- As the son of a business owner, Ryan Holmes says he has an "innate entrepreneurial spirit."

But the Kenyon native's path to business ownership didn't begin until after a few bumps in the road.

Holmes had been working as a call center manager for a class action lawsuit administration company based in Minneapolis. But the company took a beating when the government limited class action lawsuits against insurance companies following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and Holmes' position was cut.

To help pay the bills in the meantime, he took a job at Nelson TV & Electronics in Wanamingo. But Holmes soon found himself out of a job again after he fell off a roof while installing a satellite dish and shattered his right leg.

"I was laid up for six months," Holmes said. "I had a lot of time to think."

Directly across the street from Nelson's was an old restaurant space that had been put up for sale.

"I'd look at it and think, 'Maybe that's what we're supposed to do,'" Holmes said.

So, even though Holmes had no experience in restaurant ownership and wife Nicole had only worked for a café in Minneapolis, the couple bought the space and turned it into what is now Area 57 Coffee Café in downtown Wanamingo.

The couple updated what Holmes called the "rusty spoon"-type restaurant space into a more urban-style coffee shop, with dark walls, trendy artwork, dim lighting and a few comfortable chairs.

"We wanted to be a reason to be here," Holmes said. "We wanted something unique, to be an attraction."

Now, Nicole does all of the café's baking, waking up well before dawn each morning to make cookies, pies and their award-winning bread pudding.

"She's always been good," Holmes said of his wife's baking and cooking abilities. "It's freakish."

Area 57 also serves soup, Panini's, sandwiches and wraps, as well as breakfast and dinner.

"You gotta do more than just coffee," Holmes said.

Apart from his busy café, Holmes also is serving on the Wanamingo City Council and plays drums for his church. He also enjoys spending time with his six children - whom Nicole homeschools after she leaves the café each morning.

"They keep us busy," Holmes said. "We just keep going."

And though Holmes says he always saw himself as a business owner someday, he admits he never saw himself working in the food industry. Still, he said he loves being able to watch his customers enjoy his and his wife's work.

"That's the fun part. You get immediate gratification, to see if they enjoy it right away," he said. "That's rewarding.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.