New food boat sets sail on Lake Koronis

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Some of the Koronis Kafe owners – Mike Arnold, Mary Hendrickson (sitting), Tom Hendrickson, Leo Louis, Lou Louis, Harlan Palm, Geri Palm, Paul Bugbee, Kella Bugbee, and Steve Peterson – took the boat for a first voyage/dinner on Thursday, Aug, 17. Photos by Michael Jacobson

The Koronis Kafe has set sail on Lake Koronis.

The food boat will sell angus burgers, brats, hot dogs, fish sandwiches, and chicken sandwiches, with chips. They will also have pop, water, ice cream and popsicle treats, popcorn, and five pounds bags of ice (if someone needs some for their cooler).

“Fifty years ago, people started talking about having a place to eat on Lake Koronis. And they talked about it and talked about it. Skip forward 20 years, they said the same thing. Ten years ago, they said the same thing,” said owner Leo Louis, who described the boat as community building.

“This is a community-building enterprise,” echoed owner Steve Peterson, another one of the 17 boat owners. “It’s been that already. It amazes me the creativity and ingenuity of the community. Out here, people do the work and don’t love the recognition.”

The main objective is not to make money but to make Paynesville a better place, Peterson added. “What the world needs is to get to know each other better,” said Peterson. “This is a little way to do it. I love that.”

The idea was hatched, according to Peterson, at a dinner in March with Mike Arnold, another owner, who suggested putting a food truck on a boat. “That’s brilliant,” thought Peterson. “I got excited about it.”

A week later, at another dinner, he repeated the idea, and had five investors. “Getting people to put money into it was the easiest part of the deal,” said Peterson.

The boat was capitalized with $50,000, with Arnold captaining the remodeling work. Owners of Koronis Kafe are Mike and Ronda Arnold; Kella and Paul Bugbee; George Edmondson; Mary and Tom Hendrickson; Carol and Dick Johnson; Leo and Lou Louis; Mike Meyer; Geri and Harlan Palm; Peterson; and Jim and Vicky Torborg.

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Via Craig’s List, they bought a homemade house boat, built in the late 1980s by a Stillwater industrial arts teacher, which had been based on the St. Croix River. The boat is 40-feet long and 14-feet wide, with the cabin being 24-feet long.

The remodeling included a total gutting of the cabin, with new glass board walls, a stainless steel kitchen with new appliances, all new wiring and plumbing, and new flooring.

The boat was approved by the Minnesota Department of Health on Monday, Aug. 14. The owners hoped to have the boat in the water by the Fourth of July, as the remodeling and licensing took a longer than planned. “I can’t believe how many people have asked me about it,” said Peterson.

On weekends, depending on the weather, Koronis Kafe will be out on Lake Koronis. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays they hope to beach on Second Island (Winther Island) for lunch, say from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If anchored, the boat has cleats for other boats to hook onto. They are hoping the boat will be cashless. It is equipped with an iPad and a credit card reader.

This summer, the owners are planning to staff the boat themselves, as they do a trial run of the boat. Next year, they hope to hire staff, maybe a seasoned person as the captain and a couple younger workers.

If successful, the owners could add a webpage (to take email orders), they could acquire a liquor license, and other ideas in the future.

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