South Dakota natives, Shari and Baine Eliason, were convinced that Arizona was the place to make their fortune. However, this turned out not to be the case. In 1997, with a toddler and a newborn, they decided that moving closer to family might be a promising idea. A restaurant that was for sale in Madison, SD caught their attention. Located on Second Street, it had the endearing name of Second Street Diner.
The Eliasons bought the restaurant and threw themselves wholeheartedly into running it. “I raised my children here,” Sheri says. The location had been a restaurant for many years prior to when the Eliasons bought it, and had gone by many names, including Elt’s Drive-In and The College Inn. Two waitresses that had been working there since high school, Sandy Jensen and Sue Robinson, taught the new owners how to run the diner, according to Sheri. Now, twenty-five years after they first taught Sheri the ropes, Sandy and Sue are still working at Second Street Diner.
Some things have changed since the Eliasons purchased the restaurant. In 2005, they decided that it was time for a new location. The building was a rental so they could not do as much as they liked to it. It had become too small, and they often had a line trailing out the door. “The community has been so good to us,” Sheri notes. They moved the location to Washington Avenue and built the new restaurant to suit their needs. Since their establishment had become known as “the blue diner” among local children, they kept the distinctive color by painting the inside walls the same bold, classic blue.
Many things about the diner have stayed the same. The menu has barely changed since the Eliasons purchased the restaurant, with the hot beef and the #1 breakfast meal being the most popular items available. Many regular customers can be expected daily. “When we get here at six am and unlock the doors, eight or so men file in,” Sheri says with a laugh. Since the job is very hands-on, she is there almost all day, every day, especially when staff is short. Although it can be exhausting, Sheri loves the diner and everything it has come to mean for their family. “I like people coming together. This is my favorite part of the job: coffee and chatting,” she confides.
Nevertheless, Second Street Diner has had its difficulties. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Sheri says, “my main job was to worry.” She explained that when farmers do not get needed rain, factory workers are laid off, or other people in the community are struggling, “we feel it.” However, the stress does not compare to the satisfaction she gets from the job. Through it all, the Eliasons have straightened their shoulders and plowed through, continuing to provide the friendly service and delicious food that patrons have come to expect. “We’ve been here 25 years,” Sheri marvels. “It’s been the best place to raise a family.” Through it all Second Street Diner has maintained reputable hospitality to all who enter the diner and popular food as well!