By Zach Bailey
The bell above the door gave a little ring as Paul Lundquist, 14-year Winona resident, walked through the doors of Beno’s Deli’s quaint downtown location on a crisp fall afternoon. He turned and made his way over to the counter to order his usual, a Dutch Treat.
The counter worker looked up, gave a quick smile and greeted her new customer.
“No green stuff except a pickle, right, Paul?” the employee said.
Lundquist nodded and paid for his sandwich. He turned the corner and walked over to the row of booths set against the wall.
Admiring the fall decorations, he paused in front of the first booth, where a prop skeleton was seated, decked out in a fedora, coffee cup in hand, and copy of the “Winona Daily News” on the table in front of it. Lundquist gave a chuckle and made his way to a window seat, where two small pumpkins were seated on the ledge.
“It’s Beno’s,” Lundquist said after being asked why he first started eating here. “I came to town and everyone said I had to eat here; it’s just kind of a local institution.”
According to their official website, Beno’s Deli, which has been considered a Winona staple since its opening in 1984, was originally located in Lake City, Minnesota, with another located in Red Wing, Minnesota. Both were owned by Ron and Joan Shimbeno, where the name of “Beno’s” originally came from. After multiple years in business, both locations closed before Darlene Russell, a friend of the Shimbenos, opened the Winona location.
“The chain sandwich places are OK, but you don’t get the same quality and service [as at local restaurants],” Lundquist said. “It’s one of the benefits of eating and shopping local.”
Out of the three original locations, only the downtown Winona location was left — that is, until Corinne Loomis, who bought the store in 2014, took control of things.
Loomis, who had worked at Midtown Foods since 1998, with her final few years at the downtown location kitty-corner from Beno’s Deli, had been a fan of Beno’s while growing up and was able to watch the business move forward, as well as decide where she would like to take things.
“The clientele has changed a little, mostly people who work downtown, but lots of things have stayed the same,” Loomis said. “We still have the original menu from when the Winona location first opened, and we’ve tried to update the building by doing things like painting, but I like the old-time charm and history. I don’t want to make it ultra-modern; that’s not what Beno’s is.”
The one major change the business has gone through, however, is the recent addition of a second Winona location in the Winona Mall.
According to Loomis, the plans had been going off and on for about a year, and she had been approached by multiple customers that she should talk to the owner of the Winona Mall.
“I talked with [the owner of the Winona Mall] for months, then got the opinion of my husband, mom, and fellow workers and discussed if we could make it work,” Loomis said. “In the end, we decided to just do it.”
With the wheels turning to open their second location, different pieces started falling into place, as well as the appearance of new options.
Wine of the Bean, which had previously occupied the space in the Winona Mall now occupied by the new Beno’s Deli location, was open during the early morning hours each day. The downtown location of Beno’s, however, is known for being open only from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday. With a new location also came the option of a new set of hours.
“Wine of the Bean opened early each day so that other employees in the mall could get coffee as their businesses were opening, so we decided to take over the coffee part and hours of the location and just incorporate sandwiches as well,” Loomis said.
The Winona Mall has been a location for the past decade that seems to have trouble keeping stores of all types for an extended period of time, but Loomis believes that Beno’s is there to stay.
“[Wine of the Bean] struggled with staffing and quick products. [The location] needed a well-established business that could get people in and out quickly,” Loomis said. “We tried being open later at the downtown location in the past, but it didn’t always work, so we decided to give it a whirl out here.”
Over 30 years, three buildings, and one new location since first opening its doors in Winona, Beno’s continues to be one of the local staples for a bite to eat.
“We’ve been around since 1984, so now we’re starting to get children and grandchildren of people who were here at the beginning,” Loomis said. “Alumni from Winona State come with kids and order the same thing they always used to get, and they all tell me how everything is ‘just how we remember it.’”
After having gone through the recent addition, Beno’s currently has no further plans for future location changes.
“Now we’re going to try to perfect what we’ve got,” Loomis said.
Zach Bailey is a senior marketing and mass communication-journalism major from Winona, Minnesota. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the Winonan, the Winona State student newspaper, as well as a member of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. In his free time, he enjoys racing motorcycles, playing guitar, reading and watching movies. He hopes to one day work for the New York Times and become a published author.