Carlton County restaurants adjust to new reality

Businesses in Cloquet and Carlton recalibrate for online and walk-up ordering during coronavirus outbreak.

Magnolia Cafe owner Yvette Maijala smiles through the recently installed walk-up window at the Carlton coffee shop. Maijala closes the shop for three days to revamp for online and walk-up ordering after Gov. Tim Walz ordered restaurants and bars to close to dine-in business. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

Yvette Maijala popped out of Magnolia Cafe Monday, March 23, in Carlton to deliver an online order to a car sitting on Third Street.

Maijala, the cafe’s owner, has worked furiously since Gov. Tim Walz ordered bars and restaurants closed to walk-in business March 17.

Magnolia Cafe has some specific challenges that make serving customers without walking into the restaurant difficult. The cafe has neighboring businesses on either said that make a drive-thru impossible.

Maijala closed Magnolia for three days to revamp for online and walk-up ordering. Online ordering was easier because her payment system was already set up, but walk-up ordering took a little more time.

Magnolia is in an older building and the windows of the cafe wouldn’t stay open, Maijala said. She talked to Hagen Glass and Paint in Cloquet, but it would have been up to eight weeks to get a new window installed. To solve the problem, Hagen installed a sliding window to insert in the space and give Magnolia customers a way to get a cup of coffee or a sandwich without ordering online or walking into the store.


From Hagen accommodating Magnolia’s needs to a mysterious patron who simply left a $20 bill in the open window, the Carlton community has rallied around the cozy little coffee shop.

“It’s been different,” Maijala said. “It’s been very overwhelming with all the support we’ve received.”

Over in Cloquet at Gordy’s Warming House, drive-thru service has always been available and there was a line of cars waiting for coffee or sandwiches about midday Monday, but sister restaurant Gordy’s Hi-Hat — a staple of Cloquet summers since 1960 — remains closed.

Gordy’s Hi-Hat was scheduled to open Thursday, March 19, but the COVID-19 crisis delayed the opening indefinitely.

Dan Lundquist, who owns both restaurants, said he is working with the Minnesota Department of Health to try and get the Hi-Hat open as soon as possible. He said 30-40% of sales each summer are takeout, but they are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

“We want to come up with a plan that is safe for everyone involved,” Lundquist said.

Business at drive-thrus around Cloquet was brisk Monday, with lunchtime lines wrapped around McDonalds, Dairy Queen and other fast food chains on Highway 33.

As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.


Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
What To Read Next
Get Local