Cooper’s Cafe Closes, Auc­tion Set

McDonald County Press - - FRONT PAGE - Megan Davis

Last Fri­day, regulars bid farewell to a lo­cal land­mark. Af­ter eight years op­er­at­ing Cooper’s Cafe — and decades of restau­rant re­spon­si­bil­i­ties — Roger and Kathy King closed down the grill for the last time on Oct. 26.

“We’ve been do­ing this a long time and we de­cided to pur­sue more per­sonal time to­gether,” Kathy said.

The King’s pur­chased the lo­ca­tion on US-71B in 2011 and re­lo­cated their cafe from Col­cord,

Okla., to An­der­son. Roger and Kathy are both from Seneca and share more than 50 years of col­lec­tive restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween them.

Roger has worked in food ser­vice since he was 14 when he be­gan his first job at Pizza Hut. Over the next 18 years, he climbed the lad­der to man­age­ment and gained cor­po­rate ex­pe­ri­ence. Kathy has worked in food ser­vice since she was 10 when she be­gan help­ing at her fam­ily’s cafe in Seneca. Since then she’s con­tin­ued work­ing at fam­ily-owned “mom and pop” eater­ies and per­fect­ing some of Cooper’s most beloved recipes.

“We pride our­selves on con­sis­tency and clean­li­ness,” Roger said.

Cooper’s was also well­known for its un­par­al­leled cus­tomer ser­vice and ca­ma­raderie. Roger could of­ten be found at the cash regis­ter bar­ter­ing fresh food for goods or ser­vices. He’s been known to ac­cept ex­changes of lo­cal pro­duce, land­scap­ing and, most re­cently, “for sale” signs.

Roger served as a deputy in New­ton County pre­vi­ously and sup­ports lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cers any chance he can. An­der­son Po­lice Depart­ment pre­sented the Kings with a cer­tifi­cate of ap­pre­ci­a­tion be­fore Cooper’s Cafe closed, thank­ing them for years of great food, ser­vice, friend­ship and sup­port to law en­force­ment and first re­spon­ders serv­ing through­out the county.

When the Kings an­nounced their re­tire­ment on Face­book, Of­fi­cer Miller with the APD shared his tes­ti­mony of ser­vice and sup­port in the com­ments.

”Cooper’s Cafe wel­comed us as fam­ily. Any of­fi­cer on duty could walk into Cooper’s on an empty stom­ach, eat as much as we could han­dle (I mean a full three­course meal) and when we met Roger at the regis­ter, he would al­ways say ‘5 bucks!’” he wrote. “We had an of­fi­cer de­ploy over­seas and I don’t know how many times I got a text or call say­ing, ‘Man I could re­ally go for a Cooper’s burger right now!’”

The Kings couldn’t ship the de­ployed of­fi­cer a burger, but Miller said they man­aged to show their love and sup­port hun­dreds of miles away re­gard­less.

“They threw to­gether a goodie bas­ket con­tain­ing items such as a Cooper’s T-shirt, Cooper’s mug, their fa­mous hot sauce, candy bars, etc., and mailed it to our de­ployed of­fi­cer! We are truly go­ing to miss this place,” he said.

As regulars floated in and out of the cafe’s li­cense­plate-lined in­te­rior on Fri­day, many asked for me­men­tos in the form of cof­fee cups and T-shirts, nos­tal­gic items that would go un­used oth­er­wise. Each time, Roger obliged with a smile and of­ten a light-hearted joke.

“God blessed us with this place and it just snow­balled, but we’ve en­joyed ev­ery minute of it,” he said.

In re­tire­ment, the Kings plan to pur­sue their hobby — ket­tle corn. The two have been pop­ping and sell­ing their ket­tle corn at lo­cal events for 23 years and don’t plan to stop any time soon.

Ol’ King Korn is sched­uled to vend at up­com­ing events through­out the tri-state area.

In ad­di­tion to classic ket­tle corn, the Kings also pop a num­ber of fla­vored corn va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing sweet and salty, caramel and caramel ap­ple. De­pend­ing on the sea­son or event, they also vend blue rasp­berry, cin­na­mon and pep­per­mint corn. And one fla­vor called “nu­clear” that Roger de­scribed as “ridicu­lously hot.”

“It’s sweet, then it’s hot,” he said with a sly grin. “We have to pop it at home be­cause it’s like pep­per spray in the air when it’s pop­ping.”

Be­fore the Kings re­tire to Ol’ King Korn, they must first liq­ui­date Cooper’s Cafe.

“Ev­ery­thing is go­ing to auc­tion,” Roger said.

That in­cludes the fur­ni­ture, ap­pli­ances and all the an­tiques that dec­o­rate the walls.

The build­ing will be listed for sale, and the iconic “cheese car” will be put up for sale as well. The only things not for sale are the highly-sa­vored fam­ily recipes that make some of Cooper’s Cafe’s most renowned dishes, like Kathy’s fa­mous cin­na­mon rolls and pan­cakes.

The auc­tion will be held at 10 a.m. on Mon­day, Nov. 5, at Cooper’s Cafe, 810 N. High­way 71, An­der­son.

MEGAN DAVIS/MCDON­ALD COUNTY PRESS

Cooper’s Cafe is seen from the road­side fea­tur­ing the iconic “cheese car.” Many meals and mem­o­ries were shared within these walls over the past decade.

MEGAN DAVIS/MCDON­ALD COUNTY PRESS

Roger and Kathy King owned and op­er­ated one of An­der­son’s fa­vorite eater­ies, Cooper’s Cafe, for eight years. Fri­day, Oct. 26, was the busi­ness’ last day of op­er­a­tion be­fore the King’s re­tire­ment.

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