“Spiced Apple Cafe” owner James Culver can’t help but smile as he, along with his wife Rhonda, get ready to open Vandalia’s newest restaurant on a date yet to be set in January.
After all, James Culver is about to serve food to area residents in a building he literally grew up in as a child.
James’ grandmother Ara Ogden, along with his grandfather C.P. Ogden, had the former “Freez N’ Snack” building constructed at Oak St. and Highway 54.
He grew up eating breakfast at the restaurant, which was most recently the “Country Cupboard,” was taken to school, and would come back later to spend more time there while his mother Cheryl Culver worked there.
Cheryl worked at one time six and a half days a week at the restaurant while James was a youngster.
His grandparents also owned “Oggie’s Place,” just down the street.
“I grew up in this building and at Oggie’s Place,” said James Culver, who said he can remember standing on a milk crate and flipping burgers as a child. “…I was here as long as I could walk.”
He also remembered his grandma Ogden pulling him out of school so he could see the asphalt being put in at the location.
His grandparents sold the building, that once seated 25-30 customers, in 1984.
“I always remember grandma saying she wished she never sold this place,” James noted.
With a rich, family history in the restaurant business, James said he’s excited to carry on a tradition started by his grandma Ara.
The “Spiced Apple Cafe” will be featuring broasted chicken, something Ara was known for at “Oggie’s Place” in the past.
“Broasted chicken just like grandma use to do,” he said.
Once renovations are complete, the Culvers will fill their walls with old photos featuring a tribute to the Ogdens.
“He has a lot of history, not just with this building, but with this town,” said Rhonda Culver.
The name of the business was also inspired a little by the late Grandma Ogden, who passed in 2015. James remembered grandma loved apples and Rhonda was quick to point out that the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“He knows the business,” Rhonda Culver said.
Both Culvers said they love the artwork/logo being done for the new restaurant and are anxious to share all elements when they are completed.
The Culvers officially closed on their purchase on August 11.
Since then, they have worked hard to upgrade the infrastructure.
There is now an upgraded water line, gas line, new kitchen floor, a new walk-in cooler/freezer combination, and much more. A lot of work was done by the couple, along with a few helpers working hard on certain projects.
For James, he has been driving to St. Louis the past 21 years as a union iron worker on the construction side.
Though many of his iron work duties will still remain, he will still be very much involved in his newest venture alongside his wife Rhonda and a qualified manager the couple plans to have help with operations. The cafe will eventually be catering in the future.