HOXIE — It’s a bright Friday morning, and Michelle Foote sits on a cushioned seat with her 1-year-old daughter, Colleen, on her lap as she talks to a friend across the table.
The sunshine through the front windows of Oscar’s gives the downtown coffee bar and restaurant plenty of light. At the bar area with a large decorative steer’s head above the cashier’s place, Allison Nondorf works on an order and prepares for the lunch hour.
Named after a steer in a group of longhorns her grandfather gave her as a small child growing up in Delphos, Foote opened Oscar’s almost seven years ago. With no background in food service or restaurant management, she and her husband, Scott, decided to give it a shot.
It was an opportunity to give Michelle, the president of the Sheridan County Community Foundation who also worked with economic development, a chance to show people a new business can prosper in a small town like Hoxie.
She also felt a bit of an obligation to it as well.
“With my foot in the door being on economic development telling everyone else to give (Hoxie) a shot,” Foote said. “ ‘You can live here. It’s a great quality of life in this place. Hoxie’s a great place.’ I felt like I couldn’t just say that and not do that with action knowing that this is something I had thought about for a long time. I just decided to put my investment where my words were and started Oscar’s.”
Since opening almost seven years ago, the investment has paid off for Foote. The two-story building on a corner has become a place of community interaction, just as she had hoped when the venture began.
“I want it to be more than a coffee shop,” Foote said. “I’d been a part of a community organization that wanted to bring all parts of the community together. Whether it was civic or the business portion or the educational part.”
In the upstairs, which has tables and seating, the space can be rented for organizational gatherings, parties and other events people might want to host. On Tuesdays, Rotary meets in the upstairs.
“It’s got some great views up here,” Nondorf, the manager of Oscar’s, said of the upstairs. “We have a perfect view of the beautiful sunrise, which is nice.”
Outside the front door of the restaurant is an almost life-sized statue of a reddish-brown and white steer Scott Foote found online. Michelle Foote said it reminds her of the Parade of Cows along Michigan Avenue in Chicago, where she lived for a short time after graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in ag economics.
“(Scott) bought it as a novelty present, I guess you would call it,” Michelle said, laughing.
Modernly decorated with its own unique motif, Foote wanted Oscar’s to be a place the entire community can feel welcome. One wall features artwork from a class at Hoxie Elementary School. There is a clear door refrigerator up front next to the cash register, which has a combination of food and drink. Customers can grab and go if they please.
Every week on the restaurant’s Facebook page, Nondorf and the staff will post pictures of some of the items, and the menu is posted as well.
One of the main things Foote did in addition to making it just a coffee house and a place for people to come and relax was to make sure they it had a healthy menu to go along with desserts and drinks. She also took into consideration how it would be a place of employment for people around town perhaps wanting to try something new.
Foote wants the business to keep evolving. It’s been a concept that has worked for Oscar’s, and it gives her a lot of pride in seeing how far they’ve come in the time the restaurant has been open. Foote always is happy to see the community grow, said it’s been nice to witness other businesses open around the downtown area.
“The reason for starting Oscar’s was just to be a part of the community,” Foote said. “I’ve been on a lot of community boards and encourage people to take chances and invest in our community. I like to feel good knowing that it does provide some jobs for whoever, whether it’s a part-time job or part-time check they need or if they need a full-time employment.
“There’s some other new business fronts on Main Street. That’s been fun to watch that grow. There’s another business that will start soon. It’s exciting to be a part of all that.”