'Neighbors' finds new owners
For the new owners of Neighbors Café in downtown McPherson, the past couple of weeks have been about returning to where things began.
Natasha Catton's first job was at Neighbors, and it was a job she loved after being talked into it. For her partner, Logan McNett, memories of the restaurant permeate his childhood — and the the eatery is where he first met Catton.
"I met Natasha for the first time seven years ago in this very restaurant," McNett said.
He remembers when the restaurant was called Chuck Wagon decades ago.
"I can still recall the excitement in going to the restaurant, finding the hearty foods and friendly atmosphere; still a staple through Shelly and Cameron's ownership and a legacy we will continue," McNett said.
Shelly and Cameron Wiggins opened Neighbors Cafe at 204 S. Main St. as their own in November,1997, offering classic diner fare for breakfast and lunch, with everything from all types of eggs to chicken fried steak.
Diners could watch the chef from a bar stool at the counter, a quiet booth in the back or take a snack to-go, but everyone that comes in to Neighbor’s picks up the friendly banter.
Wiggins talked Catton into working at the restaurant.
"She kept trying to get me to work there, and I was always ... oh, no," Catton said. "One day I was, like, OK and it turned out it was my favorite place."
But the Wiggins era is coming to an end — and a new era beginning for the mainstay in the McPherson downtown. That era, however, is only in ownership. Other pieces of Neighbors will live on.
"We want to keep the menu and the atmosphere," Catton said. "We know the building needs TLc and we plan on doing some of that over time. ... It is a cool building."
For Catton, buying the place is a dream come true.
"I always wanted to buy the place, and, what better time than a pandemic, you know," she deadpanned. "It was my favorite place to work. It waws more like family there."
McNett is a business owner prior to this venture, owning his own well drilling company in Lindsborg.
He had no second thoughts about purchasing Neighbors — despite a pandemic that limits business. He wants to support Catton in living out her dream.
"She learned in college her passion was not college, it was the restaurant," Logan said.
And then Shelly went through a health scare — a cancer diagnosis. Her health is good now, but for the past few years her health is where her attention was at. Couple with that her need to leave the diner twice a day to care for her husband Cameron — a 2008 stroke left him disabled.
She kept the restaurant open, making food and serving customers. Some maintence, however, went by the wayside. That is what will keep McNett busy on the weekends for the near future.
New flooring — and new concrete work this weekend — along with new windows, tables, chairs and a refresh wherever needed. The restaurant remains open as all that work is done.
McNett sees an expansion coming in the spring as well — specifically, finding a way to offer some Sunday hours.
"For that brunch crowd, for that Sunday group, there is not a lot going in in town right now," McNett said.
He wants to target from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"We're not going to be running this from afar. We are right in the thick of it," McNett said. "... The restaurant has been Natasha's passion, as she worked there off and on through the years it has become more obvious to her and I. As she was nearing completion of her criminal justice degree we took several evenings of reflection, what she wanted was to be back in the restaurant. The rest will soon be history as we near the end of our second week, with her acting as full manager and owner while I keep up with much the much needed TLC."