Bay Leaf Café to close Dec. 22, after 24 years as Spearfish fixture

Taffy Tucker and French Bryan, co-owners of the Bay Leaf Café, will close the Spearfish restaurant on Dec. 22, after 24 years in business. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson

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SPEARFISH — A fixture of the Spearfish community will close in a couple of weeks: The Bay Leaf Café will shut its doors at 3 p.m. Dec. 22.

After 24 years in business at the Bay Leaf, and in the restaurant industry since 1975, French Bryan and Taffy Tucker, co-owners of the Bay Leaf Café, are retiring and have sold the building.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported the Bay Leaf for the past 24 years,” the two said. “We bought the building in January of 1993 and have loved the Bay Leaf and Spearfish all that time.” 

Bryan said the two have considered retiring for the past five years. They got serious two years ago.

Tucker put together a prospectus in August 2015 and immediately had a buyer.

“It didn’t even hit the MLS before they came in and made an offer on it,” Bryan said. 

“That was easy,” Tucker recalled thinking.

“It was easy up until the point that they said, ‘I guess we can’t do this,’” Bryan said of how the deal fell through.

The two restaurateurs had a stake in Deadwood’s Franklin Hotel and owned the restaurant.

They purchased the building that was to be home to the Bay Leaf in January 1993.

They learned quickly that the structure needed major repairs.

“Getting the building rehabbed, it was a much bigger undertaking than we ever anticipated,” Bryan said. Even though there were times during the rehabilitation of the building they questioned what they got themselves into, that work remains one of his favorite memories of owning the business.

“It was two or three official documents from being condemned,” he said of the rough conditions.

The building, which was first home to the Spearfish Hotel, was built in 1892. The back part of the building was added on later. Bryan said they could determine this as the front was built using square nails, and the back, more modern, round nails.

The building served in a variety of functions throughout the years. When the two began the renovations, they learned they needed to “gut” the building, lift it, and pour a new foundation.

“It was the most affordable building downtown when we bought it, and turned it into one of the most expensive ones,” Bryan said. 

Once the building was fully rehabbed, the two opened the doors to the Bay Leaf Café on Aug. 2, 1993.

“We started out with the big dream of being predominantly a vegetarian restaurant and a coffee shop,” Bryan said. “And it didn’t take very long where we had to curtail that percentage where we became a South Dakota business, a meat and potato business, with a small offering of vegetarian.”

Tucker describes the restaurant’s menu as American with a strong Mediterranean influence.

Both owners are large supporters of the arts, and local artists have hung their creations on the walls of the café for years. 

Those ever-changing pictures, paintings, quilts, and other art have been a favorite part of the restaurant for Tucker.

“My favorite things are the quilts and pictures and the way it changes every time we change art,” she said. “The sound of the building changes every time, too. If there are quilts, it is quiet and warm. If there are pictures with a whole bunch of glass, it is loud.” 

Anther favorite memory was during the café’s 20th anniversary when they hosted a block party, “and fed everybody a bunch of great food. It was fun,” she recalled.

“We have such amazing, faithful, and wonderful customers. A lot of them are older and have been coming here for 20 years,” she said.

The closing date for the pending sale of the building is Dec. 29. It has sold to another restaurateur who declined to elaborate on her plans for the business at this time.

Tucker and Bryan plan on staying in the area, with the exception of some traveling.

“I’m going to go into my basement and quilt,” Tucker said. “It has years and years of purchasing and not much quilting happening.”

Bryan said he plans to “catch up with old friends that I haven’t had a chance to catch up with in a few years.”

Both also said they plan on volunteering — Bryan with the Matthews Opera House and the Spearfish Area Chamber of Commerce, and Tucker with Meals on Wheels.

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