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Countryside restaurant owner says, “Thanks for the memories”
Jim DuRose became a Roseville resident when he was just a lad of eight, following his family’s move from St. Paul. He began his career at the Countryside as a dishwasher and bus boy while attending Mounds View High School, graduating from MVHS in 1976.
DuRose didn’t have a particular desire to get into food service but the Countryside offered a flexible evening job that fit his schedule while spending days attending Brown Institute. Two years later, he graduated from Brown with a degree in medical electronics, just in time to witness the beginning of layoffs in the medical electronics industry.
As time went on, DuRose, very much a “people guy,” warmed to the restaurant life. He became the assistant night manager, eventually marrying his sweetheart Jan, fathered a daughter, Jessica, and, with Jan’s and Jessica’s help, jumped in with both feet, buying the 40-year-old enterprise in 1996.
Jessica began work at the restaurant when she was 14. “There are no labor laws when it comes to family,” Jessica says, with a twinkle in her eye.
But today, 17-years later, DuRose is ready to throw in the towel.
Suffering from a severely deteriorating hip and pronounced limp caused by a 2008 fall, DuRose, now 55, has put the restaurant up for sale. “The hip is not getting better,” he explained, it’s bone-on-bone and the need for cortisone shots is becoming more frequent.”
“It’s been a seven-day-a-week job for the last 17 years, he says, “12-14 hours a day.” He admits to taking a half day off, “here and there, but a half-day is seven hours, he says, ruefully. “I don’t know if I’m a glutton for punishment, or if it’s just plain stupidity.”
But it’s not all work and no play for DuRose. He has an interest in spinning “functional” pottery, “the kind you can put in the dishwasher,” and has the equipment -wheels, four of them actually, and a kiln.
He’s been working at it, displaying work at a couple of art shows with wife Jan, an allergy nurse, and his married daughter Jessica who has an art degree and lives in Minneapolis.
Will miss the cooking
DuRose is far too nice a guy to be thought of as the “soup Nazi” of Seinfeld fame, but he is proud of the 40 varieties of soup he can put together. “All from scratch,” he says. Other offerings at the 57-year-old restaurant run the gamut, just like the Heinz varieties.
The spaghetti sauce, for instance, described as an “old friend of the family recipe” is great combination with the Countryside’s specialty of broasted chicken, according to the owner. DuRose has a genuine interest as well, in the food truck concept, growing in the metro. It’s a way to keep a hand in cooking and possible to get off his feet a little more.
Thanks for the memories
Faced with saying goodbye brings a tear to DuRose’s eye. “Just having a good time with the kids” he says, referring to his 13 part-time employees, as well as the customers he’ll miss.
What’s next? “I’m not ready to retire,” he says. “But this is a changing business, I don’t have craft beers for the younger people, and gas prices and access to the restaurant due to construction doesn’t help. And then there’s the economy. Some of my senior customers are faced with the choice, ‘do we pay the doctor bill, or go out for dinner this month.’”
DuRose is “a humble man” who is well liked by customers and employees alike, says Kelly Paddock Larson, known as “KP” to many Countryside regulars. “He’s there whether it’s a loan to one of his employees or helpful advice to a customer.”
Larson has been working at the restaurant for 26 years - since she was 17 years old, interrupted only when she went away to college. Now she’s back, still helping out when the restaurant is short-staffed. “We’re always pulling Jim out of the kitchen at the request of customers who went to share their problems or just to shake his hand.
“He has a card file of people that can answer questions on car repair, electrical, plumbing or other problems or questions customers come up with,” says Larson.
DuRose is involved in the Roseville community, as well. “He’s always there donating food or money when asked. I’ve never heard him turn anyone down,” Larson says.
What’s going to happen to the Countryside property? “It’s hard to say, DuRose says. “There are four potential buyers that have expressed interest. Two are interested in keeping the restaurant, and two talk about replacing it with office buildings.”
And what about the owner? “I’m not ready to retire, DuRose says again, with a gleam in his eye, probably thinking about that food truck.
Denny Lynard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.