Brockman's Cafe set to close at Missouri State Fairgrounds

Friday, September 5, 2008 | 2:44 p.m. CDT

SEDALIA - Gene Brockman has served his last breakfast, marking the end of an era at the Missouri State Fairgrounds.

In 1957, the building across from the Coliseum between the horse barns became Brockman's Cafe.

Brockman, 80, of La Monte, and his late wife, Sue, began serving breakfast and lunch to fairgoers more than 50 years ago.

"I am getting ready to give her up after 51 years," Brockman said.

Brockman catered to fairgoers during the fair and in the offseason. Brockman's season would begin in April and end in the last week of October.

"We've done all the offseason stuff for about 25 years now," Brockman said.

The cafe was a family-run business. Nearly all of Brockman's family have helped him cook and serve food over the years.

Daughter Peggy Nelson, 56, of Liberty, said that since her mother died in December 2007, it has been hard on everyone.

"When my mom died, it took our anchor," Nelson said. "It's very difficult to work now."

Nelson took over washing the dishes, a task that her mother always did. Nelson served customers and took care of any book work as well.

"It's time. It's hard to be here without my mom," Nelson said.

Sue worked on the fairgrounds since she was 11 years old, Brockman said.

"She spent the bigger part of her life on the fairgrounds," Brockman said.

When the cafe opened, hamburgers were 25 cents and a pop was five cents, he said.

Brockman began serving breakfast at 5:30 a.m., and at 10:30 a.m. lunch would begin. Brockman would serve anywhere from 75 to 400 people depending on the event.

Mary Merk, 46, of Smithton, said her favorite meal was the rocket, a dish filled with ham, sausage, bacon, eggs and hash browns.

"Oh, it's great. They are all good cooks," Merk said.

Merk met the Brockmans through their employment together at Wal-Mart.

Brockman has worked at Wal-Mart in the garden center for 10 years and Sue worked there for 23 years.

"He's a hard worker who takes pride in everything he does," Merk said. "The building is bright and pretty, and I am going to hate to see it go."

Brockman said it has been a challenge at times, but the atmosphere is what kept him going.

"They have really appreciated us over the years," Brockman said about his customers.

Although the cafe is closed, Brockman will still be out at the fairgrounds to take care of the flowers planted along the road, a task he and his wife Sue began in 1989.

"I'm going to miss them, and they are going to miss us," Brockman said.



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