Grand Forks eatery helps those recovering from mental illnessThough the 4th Street Eatery is known for its homemade soups, entrees prepared from scratch and Better Than Robert Redford dessert, it has a mission that extends beyond serving good food. Located on the sixth floor of the County Office Building in downtown Grand Forks, the restaurant was established in 2006 to assist community members battling with mental illness.
By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald
Though the 4th Street Eatery is known for its homemade soups, entrees prepared from scratch and Better Than Robert Redford dessert, it has a mission that extends beyond serving good food.
Located on the sixth floor of the County Office Building in downtown Grand Forks, the restaurant was established in 2006 to assist community members battling with mental illness.
“We’re not here to make a profit,” said manager Elaine Olson. “This is an opportunity to employ people who are recovering from mental illness.”
According to Olson, all employees of the eatery receive services from Prairie Harvest Mental Health. The nonprofit group oversees 4th Street Eatery and uses it as a job training facility for clients.
“The goal is to get people to go where they want to go and provide them with the skills to do that,” Olson said.
Proceeds from fundraisers, grants and Prairie Harvest’s Home Place Thrift Store are all used to support the eatery’s overhead.
Clients are referred to the eatery by the Northeast Human Services Center and work as cashiers, cooks, dishwashers and custodians.
Employing clients at 4th Street is part of the road to recovery, which allows them to regain independence and self esteem, according to Olson. Ideally a client will work for a year or so in the restaurant.
“But we have people that have stayed,” she said.
One of those people is cashier Danny Owens, who started as a dishwasher and has been with the restaurant on and off since 2009.
“I’ve been a cashier all my life,” he said. “I worked at a gas station my dad ran.”
Owens pointed to the eatery’s fast service as one of its strengths.
Olson agreed, pointing out most of 4th Street’s customer base is office workers within the building and her employees try their hardest to serve them as efficiently as possible.
“If they’re on a 15-minute break, they can’t be waiting 20 minutes for food,” Olson said.
Though the restaurant’s end goal isn’t to make a profit, Olson said business continues to increase.
“It used to be if we had a $50 day, we were lucky,” she said. “Now it’s nothing to have a $200 day.”
Food with a view
Besides offering a variety of food such as sandwiches, snacks and desserts, 4th Street Eatery serves daily specials such as hotdish, meatballs and tacos — a selection that continues to expand.
The restaurant started with just a few menu items and now features more than three dozen choices. A catering service also formed and has been very successful, according to Olson.
Nurses Elaine Gunville and Valerie Hanson say they visit 4th Street often, and both enjoy its egg salad sandwiches.
“It’s very convenient,” Gunville said of the eatery’s location.
“And it’s nice to get out of the office for a change of scenery,” Hanson added. “Plus the employees are very pleasant and accommodating.”
The pair was sitting a table near a window facing the Red River — a view unique to what Olson calls the “highest restaurant in town.”
“When it’s flooding we have all kinds of people coming in here to look out the windows,” she said.
Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to email@example.com.