BY JACLYN ROSE –
Established in 1922, The Skyline Café is a local institution with a rich history. It is said, that one member of the famous duo, Lum and Abner, even owned the restaurant for a period of time. The Café has had several different names through the years but has also held the same address in downtown Mena, 618 Mena Street.
The current owner, Candon Burrell, purchased the business almost 12 years ago. “I am the owner and operator, the chief cook and bottle washer,” said Burrell. After being raised in Northern California, she moved from home at age 18. She spent years traveling all over the country before finally settling in Mena, where her parents had moved to after retiring. She began working at Queen Wilhelmina State Park as a cook and then a waitress, before working for some time at The Lime Tree. While she was there one of her co-workers purchased The Skyline and she went to work for them. Eight years later, the Café became available and she purchased it.
Burrell has a son and a daughter and two granddaughters, Madeline and Abigail. “We have 9 ½ employees,” said Burrell with a smile, “my 6 year old granddaughter, Maddie, comes to work with me on Sundays to help me prep. She’s getting pretty good at it. I have very loyal employees; in fact, my head waitress has been here since I purchased the restaurant. She actually worked with me beforehand.”
The April 9, 2009 tornado left the Skyline almost in ruins. The entire restaurant had to be gutted down to the bricks and started over. After closing for 6 months for repairs the café reopened with a beautiful new look. “I was not able to salvage much, the only things were part of the long counter we used to have, which was at one point a soda counter, that is still used at the front and a couple of swinging doors in the back. Most of my employees chose to wait for me to reopen during that time. They are a great crew,” explained Burrell.
The Skyline Café serves a full menu beginning at 5:30 am until 2:00 pm, six days a week (they are closed on Wednesday). Burrell also runs a daily lunch plate where she likes to try different foods. “We serve lots and lots of burgers and lots and lots of eggs,” Burrell explained. “We had a day last summer when we were so busy we went through 1,400 eggs in one day! We serve both breakfast and lunch all day long and have customers who come in and order chili or a burger first thing in the morning.”
The Skyline Café is known around Polk County for their incredible food and has been voted the Best Breakfast in Mena on several occasions but it is also well known around the world. People have come into the café from many different countries and many go back home and tell their friends, who then also visit themselves. “We have had customers from other countries eat here and go back home and send us thank you notes and post about us on their websites. It’s really neat,” said Burrell.
“The people that come in here are the very best,” Burrell said. “There are some that are so regular you can set your watch by them. They are like family, come in and if you don’t know anybody you will by the time you leave. Most mornings, if the weather is cooperating, you will find our guys sitting out front with their coffee waging wars and winning battles and solving the world’s problems. They are great people.”