Justice Two may be off beaten path, but it's gaining a following
CLITHERALL, Minn.—The group of women outside the Justice Two Coffeehouse and Eatery was having a good time sharing food and stories.
The gathering on a recent summer day was a small class reunion and some of the stories were no doubt about days spent together in the early 1970s at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.
But the women also talked happily about the coffeehouse, offering universally favorable reviews.
Beryl Schultze, of Minneapolis, remarked about the "friendly, friendly people waiting on us."
Justin Banken, who along with his wife, Karen, have managed Justice Two for about the past two years, provided a brief history of the store and the community, stating that the original town of Clitherall—the first settlement in Ottertail County—was established in the 1860s but moved a short distance away after the railroad came through in the 1880s.
The original structure that houses Justice Two was built in old Clitherall, or what is sometimes called Old Town, in 1916 and it operated as a general store until the early 1930s, when Highway 210 was built and traffic largely bypassed the Clitherall area.
Justin Banken said the building then stood empty until his parents, Mike and Laural Blaskowski, purchased it seven years ago and with the help of relatives and friends embarked on transforming a derelict shell of a structure into a popular business.
"It's amazing what it was and what it turned out to be," Banken said, referring to the shop that has been in operation for about five years.
Justice Two's location may seem remote, but Banken said they've welcomed customers from around the country and the world, including Israel, Cuba and Russia.
Travelers are invited to mark their home state or home countries on a large map inside the store.
On the same day the Augustana reunion took place, two women from Sweden, Pia Olofsson and her daughter, Lina Olofsson, also were visiting Justice Two, along with Anna Schuler, a relative who lives in Buffalo, Minn.
The three were in the area for a family reunion, though the Olofssons said they will be coming back annually, in part to visit Justice Two.
"It's so good," Lina Olofsson said, remarking on the food.
The business relies primarily on word of mouth for advertising and Justin Banken said it also helps when they receive positive reviews on travel websites.
He said the name Justice comes from the original general store, which boasted its prices were fair and just.
Justice Two offers sandwiches, panini and wraps, as well as ice creams, "all sorts of espresso drinks," and other beverages, Justin Banken said.
Its fresh baked goods are primarily the work of Karen Banken, who said after encountering the business, many customers describe the experience as a lovely surprise.
"You don't exactly expect to find a brownstone in the middle of the country," she said.
Located near a resort, the store has its own dock on Clitherall Lake and room for three boats to tie up.
With a large upper floor that provides lots of seating and areas for playing games, the coffeehouse is also a venue for events like graduation and birthday parties.
"It's been cool," Justin Banken said. "We really strive to make people happy."
The business is open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through the summer season.