Our first story came about after a round of golf and a zest for a good burger and a cold beer. I asked "where in Lennox should I go?" The answer surprised me and I was inspired by what I found there.
The love of family and small-town life shines through at The Only One.
It's a cold and rainy day in KELOLAND, however there's a heartwarming story at The Only One in Lennox, South Dakota. "My Dad found that this was available for purchase. He worked at Hy-Vee for 23 years and I think it was always his dream to own a business and maybe a restaurant. So, he quit Hy-Vee, cashed in his 401k and bought the bar,” Lindsey Lawrence said.
The dad is Lenny Lawrence, a meat manager of 23 years, who bought "The Only One". This was Lenny's dream, but his family, especially the strong women in his life like his daughter Lindsey, would ultimately keep it going. "Lots of ups and downs. But I think anybody has those. My Dad always said, 'but you need to move forward and be blessed by what you have'. I would always say, 'but I have the worst luck.' And he would always tell me, 'no, you are pretty lucky.' Because I have my daughter, my family and we are very close so that helps when you are down," said Lindsey Lawrence.
The Lawrence family has endured its share of challenges and sadness. " We lost a brother when I was eleven at the house. That was a down. And then when we lost our Dad, that was a big down. It was so hard to get over. It is still hard to this day." Lindsey Lawrence said. "It was kind of strange because we all decided on a whim in February, the year that he got cancer, that the family would go on a family vacation, as we had never done that before. Then two months later we found out that he has cancer. (Pause) Sorry. So, he fought for ten months and then he couldn't fight no more. And so, he passed away. It will be two years in March. So, he had been part of this for 15 years. He made this what it is."
Then Lenny Lawrence died of liver cancer. The dreamer, the risk taker, the husband and dad is gone. So now what? "This was my Dad's dream and I want to keep it going. I don't want to let the community down. My Dad built this place for the community and they support us and I don't' want to let them down. And I don't want to let my Mom down or the rest of my family," Lindsey Lawrence said
And the small town of Lennox had their back. "They support us and we want to support them too. 'Was Lennox worried you were going to close down?” Huether asked. “I will ask your Mom too, but was that part of the supper conversation? Oh, my gosh, are we going to have to close this thing down?” Lindsey Lawrence admits, “It was a thought."
This is a "We” story of family and community incorporating some good old -fashioned work ethic and family values, too. “Dad always taught us to work hard. If you are sick, you still go to work. 'Did you get that young people? Would you repeat that?' If you are sick, you go to work," Lindsey Lawrence said. "So, I think when you are raised with close family it is kind of like a village to raise a child instead of with one parent. So, that is what it is like to also run a business, you need everyone on board."
A strong family led by the matriarch, Lenny's bride and now sole owner of "The Only One", Jill Lawrence, lost a business partner and her husband of 33 years. "He was the love of her life. I saw many trips, both of them crying because they didn't want to lose each other," Lindsey Lawrence said.
And through it all, the family never gives up. "And there were times when I wanted to sell it and the kids stepped in and said, Mom we will help you. And I said ok, because I don't think I can do this myself. And they did. They stepped in and helped me. But there are times, to be truthful, when I just want to give it all up. It is a lot of work, it really is. But we just wanted to keep their Dad's dream come true going," said Jill Lawrence, Lenny’s widow. "Try to keep it running the best we can. It is tough, it really is.” Huether added, “Lennox needs "The Only One" though.” “Yeah, they are accustomed to it. And the reason it got its name, because it was the only one. It was the only bar. I don't think they had any food back then,” said Jill Lawrence. “But it was the only one? So that is the real deal?” Huether asked. “Yep," Jill Lawrence replied.
Lennox has kept "The Only One" in town because of this families dream, work and sacrifice. A dedicated family with some passionate, hard-working and committed women leading the charge. There was no other choice in their mind. "When Dad passed away, I knew I was going back to work when my daughter started kindergarten. There was no other choice. No other option. I wanted to come here. I want to be here. I love what I do and I love being able to work with my family,” Lindsey Lawrence said
I was so inspired by this family. Their dedication to hard work and keeping their dad's dream alive really touched my heart. The burger was darn good too. So, stop by The Only One in Lennox, enjoy a good meal, salute small town perseverance, and the family that helps makes that happen.