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A new era for the Schwarzwald Inn

Molly Luther, owner of The Good Life Cafe, will lease Schwarzwald Inn this summer. Jorg Toll and his family have operated the restaurant for 33 years. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

The Schwarzwald Inn has been owned and operated by Jorg Toll and his family for 33 years and according to him that’s long enough.

Jorg followed his father, Arno Toll, to the United States at the age of 16 and couldn’t speak a word of English so he enrolled at Menahga High School to learn the language.

At that time his parents owned and operated a horse ranch in Germany but his father always favored America and decided to move out of Germany.

Arno Toll traveled through the U.S. on a bus tour hosted by realtors, and decided to get off the bus in Menahga. Arno wanted to farm so he bought 320 acres.

When Jorg arrived his father picked him up in a pickup truck with a camper in the back.

"I thought, oh gosh this is the end of the world, where are we going?" Jorg recalled. "He drove further and further north, I couldn’t believe it. Where is he taking us?"

After Jorg arrived here, his dad went back to Germany and Jorg stayed behind on his own.

It wasn’t until after a few years that both of his parents moved here permanently, and over the years his five siblings came back and forth.  But it was only Jorg and his sister Gabriele, who now owns the Brauhaus that made the Park Rapids area their home.

Jorg’s parents started the Schwartzwald Inn in 1983. The restaurant was named after a large

 forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany, where Jorg’s father had lived as a younger man. Schwarzwald means "black forest" in English.

His parents then opened the Brauhaus in 1986 as well as opening a truck stop in Fergus Falls.

Jorg took over the Schwarzwald in the early 1990s and now he has been running the restaurant longer than his parents did.

"I first rented it for a while and then I bought it in ‘93," Jorg said. "I’ve been here for 33 years, first it was my parents and then I took over and so it’s been a long time and I wanted a change of wallpaper, to do something else."

In 2000, Jorg remodeled the entire restaurant giving it new life. He opened up the dining area by moving the kitchen back in order to accommodate more seating.

"I wanted to make it more German and give it a more authentic impression," he explained.

During the remodel he thought the walls were too tall so he had the shelf put in that now holds the beloved train.

"Old and young alike love that train," he said.

"I think this restaurant was ready for a new era, a new person and new ideas," Jorg said. "It was ready, it needed it and I knew that I couldn’t bring that anymore, and I was hoping to find someone that could achieve that."

Molly Luther, owner of The Good Life Café and Molly Poppins Gourmet Snacks, will be transitioning the Schwarzwald into a new restaurant opening in early May.

"I’m happy Molly is going to try it," Jorg commented.

"We’re going to run it for the summer season and hopefully it goes so well that it’s a no brainer in the fall that we buy it then," Luther said about leasing from Jorg. "But it just allows us to kind of test it before having the huge commitment of a third building on Main Street."

"We go into everything with the thought that we’re going to be wildly successful and this is no exception. We may have a short term lease but we’re all in, make it work," she said.

"It’s nice that she’s going to give it a try and it should work," Jorg clarified about Luther’s transition into a new restaurant. "I’ll try to help her as much as I can to see that it’s successful."

"I got older and less capable of dealing with all of the different issues involved with owning a restaurant," he explained. "I just got a little burned out."

"It’s not easy and you have to stay on top of it. Managing the restaurant is  very important, you’ve got to find time and I ran out of time," he said.

According to Jorg, people always praised the food and the restaurant and have always been very appreciative of the service over the years. He explained how he will miss the customers and visiting with them.

"It was a good time here, it was really nice; a person gets use to it," Jorg said, while admiring the restaurant that has become his home. "I like to go to Germany where I’m from but after 3-4 weeks it’s time to come back.

"It’s just been a long time so I thought I got to put an end to it sooner or later before I’m too old to do anything else. Now I want to enjoy my life a little bit," he said. "When you get time off you want to go lie in the lawn chair and relax a little bit." 

After 30-plus years Jorg has earned his time in the lawn chair.

"You can call me and I’ll fill in a shift or two," Jorg said teasing Luther.

Luther’s response, "I was thinking you should just come in and have breakfast."