by Jim Bulls
KRL’s local Reedley Historian Jim Bulls shares the history behind one of Reedley’s most popular downtown restaurants, Main Street Cafe.
On August 8, 1910 fire destroyed the south-east corner of G and 11th Streets. The Reedley Hotel (also known as Ma Simpson’s Hotel), Webb’s Land Office and Green’s Pharmacy were totally leveled. The rest of the block was saved only because the next building was brick and acted as a fire stop. At that time, Reedley’s Volunteer Fire Department equipment consisted of one hydrant, a hose cart, an acid extinguisher and lots of buckets. Green, Reedley’s first druggist, rebuilt in brick while the Reedley Hotel rebuilt in wood, but lost its 1890’s façade. What lies between the two buildings would eventually become Mainstreet Café.
Photographer George Besaw purchased the former land office property and built a two-story brick building to house his post card company, with a studio and dentist office upstairs. By 1913, Besaw moved to the Bay Area and Drath Photography moved into the studio.
In the 1930s, the former Besaw building was advertising “Reedley Bread” and the building to the south was advertising hambergers (sic) and ice cream. Little is known about either of these businesses. I am able to date the photo below because of the car. It is the last body change for a Model T Ford and it has wood wheels, making it a 1926. By the patina of the paint job I believe this photo was taken in the mid-1930’s.
The next photo, from the early 1950’s, shows the former Besaw building without the second story. It was then Lyman’s Ladies Wear and the building to the south was the Art Kirsch Market. By the end of the 1960’s, the market would be home to The Donut Shop owned by Dan and Sherry Smith.
Dan Smith patents a two-hole donut maker and put Reedley on the map when he invited Peter Dowdeswell, the “World’s Fastest Eater and Drinker” to set a Guinness World Record for eating the most two-holed donuts at the Reedley Fiesta (c. 1981). Dowdeswell, who hailed from Earls Barton, UK did indeed set an eating record. Sadly, not too long after this event, the Smiths were killed in a private plane accident. Dave and Donna Dick purchased The Donut Shop and renamed it Mainstreet Café. The Dicks expanded their menu to serve breakfast and lunch, and they opened a deck in the vacant space between their building and the Reedley Hotel. Eventually they enclosed the deck area to make more dining room.
Sometime in 1991, Carol and Angie Friend were traveling from Palm Springs to Canada to check on the building trade. Carol, a journeyman building contractor was looking for more work. They stopped to visit relatives in Dinuba and had dinner at The Pub. It was here that Carol, who always wanted a small café, found out that Mainstreet was for sale. With a twinkle in his eye, he turned to Angie for constructive support and she said, “No, No, NO!” The next morning they continued heading north. Fortunately for Reedley, the Friends soon found out that the Canadian building boom had crashed. They had plenty of time to ponder their next business venture on the long road back to southern California.
In 1992 a deal was struck with the Dicks, who said they would stay on and help the Friends get started in the restaurant business. Carol used his carpentry skills to remodel the restaurant and then got to work learning to cook for quantity. In 1996, Bob Suderman who had the bike shop next door, retired and sold out to Bike Trex, who soon moved closer to the Rails for Trails, making that building available for Main Street to expand. Carol was able to double the dining space of the restaurant, as well as add spacious restrooms and office space.
Mainstreet Café is a full-service restaurant and is open for breakfast (served all day), lunch with salad bar (11-2, M-F), dinner, and caters for parties or meetings. When you ask Angie to see the catering menu, she will reply “What do you want?” Last Thanksgiving we had occasion to use their catering service to feed 20. At the scheduled pick up time, we received two piping hot turkeys fresh from the oven, yams mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, homemade rolls, and two pies. We may never cook Thanksgiving again!Angie is sensitive to her customers’ dietary needs and Mainstreet does not use MSG or meats with preservatives. If you are lactose intolerant or diabetic, Angie can fix you up with the perfect entree. Carol loves to bake and there is always an abundance of sweet rolls, dinner rolls, pies and his special, “Abe’s Stove Pipe Hat” chocolate cake. Carol also likes to make his own soups.
In addition to the food and friendly service, Mainstreet Café is the place to go to find out what’s happening in Reedley. You can observe the local “spit and whittle” club and the other regulars, along with families and visitors and get a pretty good idea of the town’s personality. Of course, you do have to be able to find the restaurant, since Reedley doesn’t have a “Main” Street, just “G” Street, but once you do, you won’t be sorry.
In 2012, the Friends will be celebrating their 20th year at the helm of Mainstreet Café. I certainly hope they will be around for another 20 years.