Rosebud’s Café, a long-standing restaurant on Jackson’s Main Street, closed its doors on Sunday, July 26. This isn’t the first time that Rosebud’s has gone into hibernation—they were also closed from 2008 to 2012. When Rosebud’s announced their closure on their Facebook page on July 23, I talked with co-owner Mary Pulskamp to learn about the past and future of Rosebud’s Café.

A Brief History of Rosebud’s

In 1991, Mary worked with her sister Patty, husband Robert Lockhart, and brother-in-law Ron Busch, at Lake Amador Resort in Ione. The ongoing drought convinced them that they needed to own and operate another business to support all four of them, and they decided to purchase Marlene and Glen’s Dining Parlor at 26 Main Street. This purchase was a natural fit because Pulskamp learned the ropes of running a restaurant by working at Marlene and Glen’s for several months before her family bought it.

The first task the new owners had was to change the décor of the yellow and brown, Western-themed interior to café décor you would find in the 1930s and 1940s. “We laid a stunning black and white tiled floor,” Pulskamp said, “and made use of my collection of antique Scottish Terrier memorabilia from that time period.”

So, where did the Rosebud’s name come from? “One of my live Scotties was named Rosebud,” Pulskamp said. “The café is actually named for her, but her name was taken from the opening line in the famous Citizen Kane movie.” Many of the items on the menu were references to Citizen Kane, which starred Orson Welles and was released in 1941.

Pulskamp worked in the kitchen during the first few years they owned Rosebud’s. If that wasn’t enough, she also homeschooled her three children and was a substitute teacher in Amador and Sacramento counties.

Mary Pulskamp at Rosebud's Café

In the mid-1990s, Pulskamp went back to school, earned her master’s degree in psychology, and became a licensed marriage and family therapist. After graduation, she worked for Amador County Behavioral Health for almost 15 years. While Pulskamp worked for the county, Ron and Patty Busch decided to close the restaurant when the effects of the Great Recession became apparent.

During Rosebud’s first hibernation. Pulskamp and her husband started to farm as a fun and relaxing change of pace. They soon decided to sell their produce at local farmers markets. When Pulskamp had more food than she could sell, she said, “that’s when the idea of reopening as a farm-to-table café hit me!”

Pulskamp took early retirement from Amador County, opened her own private practice on Main Street (that continues to this day), took over operations of Rosebud’s, and began to redesign the café. “It has been my experiment from the beginning,” she said.

The Rosebud’s Mission

Pulskamp designed Rosebud’s to have a different business structure than what you would find at other restaurants. “My bottom line is not necessarily driven by the almighty dollar,” she said, “but rather how conscious can I be as I provide the service.” To do this, her business plan has several principles that she printed and posted on the walls inside the café:

  • Be here now. “I ask my staff and my patrons to be in the now,” Pulskamp explained, “and be present and informed by what is happening here, now between us, among us, within us.”
  • Harmony. “I ask my staff to recognize each other’s strengths and challenges and work toward filling in the holes,” Pulskamp said.
  • May all beings be touched by compassion. This is the most important principle, she said, because “this statement guides me every day of my life and is the overarching concept for my café.” At Rosebud’s, Pulskamp noted, “we have strived to not only do what’s right and good for our patrons, but also for our staff, our suppliers, our neighbors (housed and unhoused), and the world.”

These principles helped guide Pulskamp during the 2012 reopening and the closure on July 26.

Rosebud's Café dining room

The Second Hibernation

In the early morning hours of Monday, March 9, Pulskamp arrived at the restaurant amidst news of a growing pandemic. “By 11:00,” she said, “my loving staff and family had insisted I go home.” The following week, business at Rosebud’s dropped markedly.

Pulskamp and her employees did their best to keep Rosebud’s serving customers once restaurants could open for indoor business again. “We followed every state guideline and protocol as they were announced,” she said. “We established new sanitation procedures and installed touchless sanitation stations in several locations.”

What’s more, she said, “we purchased stanchions to restrict patrons from seating themselves and we removed two-thirds of our seating.” The lower number of in-person customers forced Pulskamp to cut her staff and focus more on to-go orders. This was a big adjustment for Pulskamp and her team because it was “something we had done very little of in the past as folks came to Rosebud’s for not only the great food but the tableside loving care they received.”

The stress grew with the new regulations, Pulskamp added. “The time and effort to clear, wipe, and sanitize each and every table and chair after use, the increase in single-use containers for food and drink (although all compostable, so consumptive), and the lengthy education that staff had to provide to nearly every patron took an emotional toll on the staff.”

Rosebud’s continued to serve patrons from around the country after the new indoor dining regulations were in place. “Initially, most did not have face coverings, which we offered with our compliments,” Pulskamp said. “Many of the maskless refused, became irate, and ranted about their freedoms. All of those were ushered away. It was ugly at times.”

Once California mandated the closure of indoor dining, Pulskamp said, “we attempted outside seating and are very grateful that the city of Jackson provided us with the two parking spaces in front of the café to put up tables, chairs, and easy ups.” During those weeks, she realized that outdoor dining wasn’t part of what her business is. “The environment of Rosebud’s is a critical part of who we are,” she said.

Pulskamp added that she felt closing was the ethical thing to do. “I came to the realization that if our medical experts were instructing us to stay home and avoid nonessential travel, was it even ethical for us to continue to temp people out so we could make a buck?” Her answer was no, and so her decision was easy: “I chose to close for the health and wellbeing of our community at large.”

Mary Pulskamp at her family farm

The Third Opening

Rosebud’s fans have no reason to panic, Pulskamp said: “Yes, I do plan on reopening in the future, whenever the future comes.”

In the meantime, Pulskamp will tend to the crops on the family farm. Her family grows a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as lamb, chickens, and quail. She’ll also continue working on the family’s non-profit charity, Small Change for Big. The charity raised over $10,000 over the past few years to provide direct services, including food and water, to unhoused members of the community.

Though indoor dining in brick-and-mortar restaurants isn’t possible for a while, Pulskamp and her family are “looking for clues and direction for our next best step.” She’s also excited about the possibilities of what the post-pandemic Rosebud’s Café will look like. “As long as people can gather indoors, we will offer that space as something, perhaps something new and different,” she said. “We have a ton of ideas running around our collective heads.”

For now, Pulskamp said, “our idea is to stay safe, ride it out, and always, always, always offer compassion.” She also pointed out her fourth business principle that is printed on a sign above the door as you exit Rosebud’s.

Happily ever after.

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