LINDSBORG — When Donice and Roy Applequist came up with the idea to donate Lindsborg’s Swedish Crown restaurant to Bethany College it “seemed like a far-out and crazy notion,” Donice said.
But the more the couple thought about it, the more it made sense to them.
That’s why the couple officially donated the restaurant to the college and its president, William Jones, in a public ceremony Wednesday morning in front of the Swedish Crown on North Main Street.
“For one thing, we liked thinking about the opportunities owning the Swedish Crown could mean for Bethany,” Donice said. “We also recognized that the food service at Bethany has more expertise in the food business than we do. You can appreciate knowing that now, when you eat at the Crown, you are not only getting good food, but you are also supporting Bethany College.”
The gift is expected to be finalized in the
coming weeks. Jones set a target date of June 10 for a grand reopening of the restaurant, which was extensively renovated in 2017.
“It’s basically a turn-key operation,” he said.
Jones said the restaurant, originally opened in 1966, will continue to operate as a Swedish-themed establishment serving local residents and visitors, as well as help raise the college’s profile by helping introduce prospective students and new donors to the college. The restaurant will be run by Sodexo, the college’s food vendor.
Bethany students also will be able to use their dining hall meal cards to eat at the restaurant, Jones said. Profits made from the restaurant will mainly be used to fund future scholarships to the college.
“There will be no discounts, in fact we may raise prices to help raise scholarship funds,” Jones said with a laugh.
Jones pointed out that other colleges have owned and operated restaurants to help raise the college’s profile, such as College of the Ozarks, a Christian college in Missouri that also has a culinary arts program. When asked if culinary arts might be a future major at Bethany College, Jones said that probably won’t be an option.
“However, we do want to involve business, marketing and communications majors into this effort to help make it a success,” Jones said.
Roy Applequist, a longtime area businessman and former owner of Great Plains Manufacturing, and his wife Donice purchased the iconic Lindsborg restaurant, which highlighted traditional Swedish dishes and American favorites with a unique twist, in 2016. They also own the Renaissance Cafe in Assaria.
Even with the renovation at the Swedish Crown, a combination of several factors, including time commitment and staffing issues, led to the Applequists closing the restaurant on Feb. 4.
The couple never intended it to remain closed permanently, however.
“We have been told how important it is to Lindsborg, and we agree,” Donice told the gathered crowd in front of the restaurant Wednesday. “That is why we have deliberated seriously about the best option for its future. We think President Jones, faculty, staff, students, alumni, supporters and friends will contribute to giving new life to the Swedish Crown.”
“Our gift of the Swedish Crown to Bethany College comes with no restrictions on its use,” Roy Applequist added. “We look forward, as you do, to what will happen here.”
Corey Peterson, chairman of the Bethany College board of directors and owner of the Hemslojd in Lindsborg, said it was a wonderful day for the city and the college.
“This gift puts three very important puzzle pieces together,” he said. “Bethany College, Lindsborg and the Swedish Crown restaurant. A large part of our economy is visitors, and without quality dining options in town, visitors won’t stop here. I’m glad the Swedish Crown will once again be part of that mix.”
Holly Lofton, director of the Lindsborg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said visitors to “Little Sweden, USA” expect to be able to eat a real Swedish meal while in town and now they can again.
“The Swedish Crown has been iconic in Lindsborg for generations,” she said. “It’s been a vital part of our economy, and now with Bethany College we see a fantastic opportunity. The more restaurants we have downtown, the better we are.”