Disease destroys, but dream wins

Jenna Stephens—Staff Writer

The fireplace and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves continue to make Butlers Café and Coffee a cozy study place, but changes are underway as the new owner shapes it into the place he has envisioned for years. The recent death of his wife has not stopped Paul Albert from pursuing the couple’s dream of owning a business.

Paul and Cathy Albert always had the idea of being self-employed. Cathy battled with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disabling disease of the central nervous system, for a number of years. The disease left her unable to stand for very long, so she found difficulty in finding employment.

Nearly 10 years ago, Butlers was put on the market. The couple checked out the establishment, but decided that timing and financing were not right and set the thought aside. But the opportunity of owning the coffee shop continued presenting itself. Two or three years later, the shop was up back up for sale as the owner hoped to retire. Timing still proved to be wrong as Cathy’s disability worsened.

Cathy died in February 2018 following her long battle with MS.

Paul, who admits his desire to be his own boss was always stronger than hers, suddenly had an abundance of free-time. He no longer carried the weight of being the full-time caretaker of his wife. Three of his four children had moved out of the house, and he was ready to downsize from their 5-bedroom house.

As Paul scrolled through a realtor’s website, he happened to stumble across another ad for Butlers.

“You know, as weird as it seems, I thought that now maybe the time was right,” Paul said.

He tinkered with the idea of making their dream a reality. After throwing around ideas and numbers, Paul and the previous owner came to an agreement to go through with the deal. He took over ownership on Memorial Day weekend, and reopened Butler’s on June 25, 2018.

Prior to the purchase, he spent years working in banking and insurance, as well as holding a managerial position at Walmart. He entered a whole new territory when he took over Butlers. Paul faced the challenges of health inspections, hiring and training new staff, learning the details of Title IX reports, and met countless other difficulties of opening a new business.

Paul arrives at Butlers around 6 a.m. each day. He turns on the machines, makes drip coffee, prepares food for lunch and supper, and fills the display case with sweet treats. The doors and drive-thru officially open at 6:30 and remain that way until 10 or 11 p.m. every day except Sunday.

Paul works between 60 and 70 hours at Butlers each week. He might leave to do some laundry or take the dog out, but most days you can find him there from open until close.

Under new ownership, Butlers has experienced a menu expansion and extended business hours. The emphasis is no longer just coffee and lunch. Paul wants the community to see Butlers as a place to eat an evening meal as well.

Butlers faces challenges in small town Iowa. Many in the community are unaware of its new extended hours or of the business’s very existence.

“There will be some nights where every table is full, and there are some nights when you hear the crickets chirping,” Paul said.

The first goal Paul has for Butlers is to make it viable and profitable. But this is just the start. Although he does not want to be the next Starbucks or Dunn Brothers Coffee, he does dream of opening a few more locations in neighboring areas.

“When I started this place, I was a babe in the woods,” Paul said. “I knew coffee, and that was about it.”

He values the input of his employees and customers and is always open to new ideas and recipes. Sticking to his ideals of dependability, honesty, and loyalty, Paul strives to provide Sioux Center with a quiet place to study, a getaway from the house, and a comfortable gathering place for old and new friends.

“I’ll take anybody. I’m all-comers here,” he said.

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