Highway 30 Eats to close its doors Friday

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer April 28, 2010 04:14 pm

Highway 30 at the current location attracted downtown shoppers, college students and business district workers taking their breaks. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH/The Observer
Highway 30 at the current location attracted downtown shoppers, college students and business district workers taking their breaks. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH/The Observer
The economic hard times of the past couple of years have spelled doom for a durable and popular eating and gathering place downtown.

Highway 30 Eats, at the corner of Adams Avenue and Elm Street in the city center, is done serving up its tasty sandwiches and pastries.

For a while longer, while the owner clears out the inventory, customers will be able to get a cup of coffee or tea, but on April 30 the business calls it quits for good.

Highway 30 has been open under four successive owners the past 15 years or so. Current owner Anna Rogers said she found herself with her back against the wall in recent months.

She said she definitely felt the pinch after widespread layoffs at local manufacturing facilities, including Fleetwood RV, Northwood Manufacturing and Boise Cascade.

“The economy had a lot to do with it. People were still coming in, that wasn’t the problem. But where they used to spend $10, they were spending $2.50,” she said.

There were other economic considerations as well. Rogers is a woman who prides herself on using organic, all-natural products. She said that while the economy sank deeper into recession, the cost of those things kept going up.

Al and Colleen MacLeod started the business as Highway 30 Coffee Company in about 1995. At that time, it was located at the corner of Fourth Street and Washington Avenue.

Colleen MacLeod said the original business sold pastries, coffee and sandwiches. The place was often packed with music lovers, because the MacLeods brought in live entertainment

Some big names, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Charlie Musselwhite and Paul Delay, played there.

“We had a lot of fun with the business,” Colleen said.

About the time Colleen MacLeod became a county commissioner, the couple sold the business to Todd Richmond, who moved it to the current location and later sold it to Jerry Nurling. Rogers bought it four years ago.

With its homespun decor and its cozy loft above the main floor, window seating at street level, sidewalk tables in good weather, plus a menu that included sandwiches, pastries, espresso drinks, teas and more, Highway 30 at the current location attracted downtown shoppers, college students and business district workers taking their breaks.

But the economic challenges caught up. Rogers said she did not want to pass price increases on to her customers, so she cut back on labor costs.

She worked long hours herself to keep the place going. In the end, it got to be too much.

“Six, 15-hour days when you’ve got four kids is a lot,” she said. “I got to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Though she’s closing Highway 30, Rogers isn’t giving up on the food service industry.

She said she plans to start a a business that will combine catering and chef-for-hire services. She hasn’t officially settled on a name yet, but thinks she will call the new enterprise Conspiracy Theory Food.

As for Highway 30, its closing marks the end of an era.

“A lot of people are going to miss it,” Rogers said.