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Junkyard Cafe in Jefferson honors the owner's late father and his love of cars

Des Moines Register 10/3/2022 Paula Reece

Junkyard Cafe in Jefferson is not only a family-owned business, but it was inspired by family as well.

Owner Karla Holman considers the cafe an homage to her late father, Verne Louis Leyendecker.

“When I was a kid, my dad would buy and sell classic and antique cars. Every Sunday he would read the ‘cars for sale’ section in the paper. Those were cruisin’ cars — I thought they were junk — until he sold them and bought more to sell. When I was in my 20s, my dad started his own business called Classical Gas and was very well-known and respected, even selling cars overseas and to some production companies. If you were to find an old Auto Trader magazine from the '90s, you would definitely see my dad’s cars in it.”

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Holman continued, “I didn’t have much appreciation for the cars when I was young, and when I was able to open up the restaurant, I wanted to pay tribute to my dad by using his colors (hot pink and hot blue) from his business and calling it Junkyard Cafe to carry over his love for cars and my love for my dad.”

Junkyard Cafe features a coffee bar called Chitty Chitty Bean Bean. It serves lattes, cappuccinos, smoothies and more. © Special to the Register Junkyard Cafe features a coffee bar called Chitty Chitty Bean Bean. It serves lattes, cappuccinos, smoothies and more.

His favorite car, a 1947 Cadillac, is carried over as the Junkyard Cafe logo with his name on the license plate.

When asked how Holman chose the site for her restaurant, she answered, “It chose me. I was actually an employee there. I was on vacation when my boss called and asked if I wanted to buy it. I purchased it four months before COVID hit.”

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Holman not only runs the business but jumps in as waitress, runs the coffee bar and occasionally helps in the kitchen when needed.

“My son is head chef, one of my daughters runs the front of house and bakes, and my mom does 98 percent of the baking,” she said. “I am training my youngest, who is 16, to become a barista, and my husband works there on the weekends.”

At Junkyard, they strive to serve home-cooked flavors and food.

Verne Louis Leyendecker, pictured with his daughters, loved to buy and sell classic and antique cars. © Special to the Register Verne Louis Leyendecker, pictured with his daughters, loved to buy and sell classic and antique cars.

“We handmake as much as we can, all the way to our cinnamon bread,” said Holman. “We serve breakfast all day and have salads, burgers and even breaded loins. We also have a daily special seven days a week. We have fabulous desserts from cookies, pies, cinnamon rolls and cakes – all homemade.”

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The atmosphere Holman wants customers to feel as they dine is warm and inviting.

“When you walk into the cafe the first thing you will see is our Wall of Honor on a hot pink wall, and it is filling up fast," she said. "Then you will see license plates, grills and hubcaps on the walls,” she said. “I love having the conversation pieces on the walls as people try to figure out what that grill goes to, or that hubcap came off a … I want you to feel like you’re at home and welcomed and cared for and that you can throw sarcasm our way and we can give it right back.”

Holman thinks that if her father were here to see her business inspired by his love of cars, he would “feel shock, just because I didn’t hold much interest in cars as a kid,” she added. “And pure pride.”

Address: 108 E. State Street, Jefferson

Phone: (515) 386-4979

Website: junkyardcafe.net

Distance from Downtown Des Moines: 65 miles

Hours: 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday.

The first thing you see at the Junkyard Cafe in Jefferson is the Wall of Honor on a hot pink wall. © Special to the Register The first thing you see at the Junkyard Cafe in Jefferson is the Wall of Honor on a hot pink wall.

Chitty Chitty Bean Bean: What started as a small coffee bar to offer customers more of a selection has became so popular that Holman built a coffee bar in a room they refer to as Verne’s Room. The business is called Chitty Chitty Bean Bean to go with the car theme.

“We are not the traditional coffee bar,” said Holman. “We have our everyday items we offer in our Blendalicious: Iced, Cold Brew, Lattes, Cappuccinos and smoothies, but we prefer to let the customer decide their favorite combinations of flavors like chocolate candied orange (we offer quite a few sugar-free options) and let them think outside the box. We make cheesecake-flavored drinks and even have Red Bull infusions. Soon to come will be Flight Boards. You will be able to choose four different drinks and have them served at one time to do a tasting.”

The hours for Chitty Chitty Bean Bean are 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Owner Karla Holman considers the Junkyard Cafe in Jefferson an homage to her late father, Verne Louis Leyendecker. His favorite car, a 1947 Cadillac, is carried over as the Junkyard Cafe logo with his name on the license plate. © Special to the Register Owner Karla Holman considers the Junkyard Cafe in Jefferson an homage to her late father, Verne Louis Leyendecker. His favorite car, a 1947 Cadillac, is carried over as the Junkyard Cafe logo with his name on the license plate.

Friday Nights: On Fridays, the cafe is open until 7 p.m. “We offer a Fish Lunch Special and at night an All-You-Can-Eat Fish Dinner,” said Holman. “We used to be open Friday and Saturday nights, but when COVID hit, it affected our Saturday nights, so we have chosen to stay open late only on Friday nights as the All-You-Can-Eat Fish is very popular.”

While You’re There: Holman says you can’t make a trip to Jefferson without visiting the famous Mahanay Bell Tower and the Rooftop Art Installations you can see from the top. She also suggested, “Check out our Arch Alley and walk around our square and read our beautiful history on all the pillars.”

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Junkyard Cafe in Jefferson honors the owner's late father and his love of cars

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