FENNIMORE - Spending time with Melodie Betts, the owner of the Lemon Door in Fennimore, is always a treat. As I expected, interviewing her for this column was no different. A strong, intelligent woman, she has captained her cafe's ship with grace and resiliency, and despite pandemic setbacks, has come out a winner.
The Lemon Door is located in charming downtown Fennimore at 1030 Lincoln Avenue. The brightly colored yellow door, enhanced with dazzling potted blooms in season, welcomes both locals and tourists alike. From Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., sandwiches, salads, coffee and other homemade drinks and treats await the weary traveler.All menu items are made to order, fresh and ready for pick up, using top quality local ingredients, and spooning homemade goodness into every mouthful. In addition to small orders, larger catered orders are welcomed.
From salad dressings to soup to drinks and five types of mayonnaise, homemade is the Lemon Door's MO.
“It reduces waste, it reduces cost,” Melodie explains. “I'm not buying mayonnaise that has a bunch of sugar in it. I wanted something that was grab-and-go, but something that was really fast and fresh.”
The Lemon Door serves three breakfast bagels: egg, roast beef with cheddar and caramelized onions; ham, egg, and Swiss; and, vegetarian with egg, chive or shallot cream cheese, tomatoes, spinach, and cheddar cheese.
The lunch menu opens a flexible portal to satisfy even the pickiest of palates. In addition to hot soups in the winter and cold gazpacho-type soups in the summer, the pick-and-choose type of menu offers sandwiches and salad choices such as salmon on Fridays, turkey, roast beef, ham, choice of cheese, five flavors of homemade mayos, house made salad dressings, and a variety of fresh veggies.
An added bonus to the Lemon Door's offerings are the pickled veggies, a recipe that Melodie gleaned from a friend of hers while living in Montana. These are the proverbial manna from heaven. Seriously. Do it.
Cookies, muffins and scones are available to satisfy that sweet tooth. Quenching drinks include homemade lemonade, Rishi iced tea, and a blueberry peach spritzer. For the coffee aficionado, espresso drinks can be had, both hot and cold.
Melodie sources local everywhere she can, utilizing eight vendors within her reach. In doing so, a symbiotic thread is woven through the tapestries of the small business arena. It intertwines with other businesses creating a bond that strengthens community, stabilizes the costly effects of the pandemic and the dreaded ‘off-season,’ and lends a constant stream of economic stability to our small communities.
“I wanted to give back to the area. I wanted to keep it local,” Melodie adds. “We gotta take care of each other and that's what I've been trying to do. Incorporating more things from our area into my menu and keeping the dollar rolling here.”
Melodie's vendors know her well and are able to cater to her high standards of quality. She found a local greenhouse to supply fresh veggies. Local bakers are utilized for her baked goods. The bacon is sourced locally as well.
How does one go about procuring such culinary delights? An easy internet jaunt to the-lemon-door.square.site will provide the ordering specifics. Customers can save their favorite menu items and with three clicks, orders can be ready in minutes. No internet? No problem. A quick call to 608-822-0002 can have a breakfast or lunch made to order, allowing the customer to pick up at their convenience.
The Lemon Door began as a cozy, welcoming cafe where one would exchange conversation with friends (or strangers) over coffee. A customer could walk in and be greeted with smiling faces and a boisterous “how ya doing today?” and feel as comfortable as walking into their own living room. At less than a year in, March 2020 changed all of that.
Melodie, once again, had to become resourceful. She remembers thinking, “Business as usual is not going to be usual anymore.”
So, she changed the Lemon Door into a thriving ‘to-go’ only business with the help of a small stimulus check from the state and generous unsolicited donations from customer friends.
“I received checks, envelopes in my mailbox...people wanting to support me and making sure that I was going stay open,” Melodie recalls.Keeping a food business alive during a pandemic is no easy task. Melodie and the folks who kept the Lemon Door afloat are fine examples of what it means to give back to communities. We help each other, and in doing so, unwittingly help ourselves.