LOST COKATO: THE CHICKEN SHACK

In June 2000, a building moving company arrived in town. Their goal that day? To pick up and haul off a long-standing piece of the town’s history. On that day, the building which had housed the Little Chicken Shack was taken away.

It is quite amazing, when one thinks about it, how much of an impression a business can have on people in a community. The Chicken Shack was open for twenty-one years under no less than five different owners. But despite its brief tenure, a good number of folks enjoyed their product and still speak of it fondly.

While the business itself did not open until 1979, the building that housed it had a long, fascinating past. Originally a Standard Oil Station, this structure sat at the corner of Third Street East and what was then called Glacial Highway 10, later U.S. Highway 12.

Its unique shape and small size, seen in the photo at left, were typical of filling stations of the era.

We do not have an accurate timeline as to what was in the building after it was no longer a filling station. At some point it became a rental property. By 1978, the tenant was a real estate agency.

In early 1979, plans were made to remodel the interior for use as a restaurant. Myron and Mary Morris leased the building and installed two broasters, pop dispensers, and "other accessories". It would be a take-out order establishment, where customers could walk in or phone in their orders. Named the Chicken Shack, it opened May 24, 1979.

Barely a year-and-a-half later, it was leased to Lucy Franke from its owner, Richard Decker, who had taken over from the Morris's at some unspecified point. The name was changed to Lucy's Chicken Shack.

On September 1, 1983, the Franke's sold to Dayl "Tina" Peterson of Litchfield. The name was then changed to The Little Chicken Shack. Tina made some slight modifications to the menu and also offered large group serving and hors d’oeuvre trays.

Deb Dalen of Bloomington purchased the business from Tina Baumtrog and her husband, Paul (she had married in 1986) in late April 1988, officially taking over May 1. Dalen operated the Little Chicken Shack until its closure in 1999. But this was not the end of the story.

The reason for the closure was that U.S. Highway 12 was being expanded and the Chicken Shack stood in the way. The fate of the building, now owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, was uncertain. In late June 2000, Russ Darnell, Hutchinson, purchased the building and had it moved to his home where he restored it into a 1920s era gas station, completing the circle. The restored building can still be visited today.

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 edition of In The Midst Of.