Zumbro Cafe's last day will be Dec. 31. This isn't necessarily the way Barbara Nei and spouse Neil Holman saw this restaurant's era coming to a close, but when you're working every day, it can be hard to plot out the end of something that's meant so much to so many people.

News first began to trickle out last year in a neighborhood newsletter that the building's landlord was looking to develop the location (2803 W. 43rd St.) that houses Zumbro, the cozy cafe famous for its summer porch seats and cozy comfort fare.

"There was a movement to stop it, but truly you can't fight a developer," Nei told the Star Tribune.

Zumbro Cafe started as Holman's dream. The couple moved into a Linden Hills carriage house in 1989 while Nei was still in graduate school. Holman had been working at the Dakota when he saw the small shop that would become Zumbro Cafe's first address. The sign in the window said, "Call for an appointment."

"Two guys had started Dancing Darla's Dessert Revue," said Holman. "I purchased all their equipment and in 1991 we opened a 12-seat deli-coffee shop with a hot plate, oven space, and started making coq au vin out of a crockpot."

The neighborhood embraced the new restaurant and it's been a joy and a journey for the couple ever since.

Eventually, the restaurant moved to its current home. Still quite cozy, it expanded into a former florist shop next door. The menu also expanded and Zumbro Cafe became a go-to for breakfast and lunch. It even garnered a coveted "Best Of" from City Pages for best breakfast in Minneapolis.

Throughout its tenure, the neighborhood around it has changed in terms of desirability and as a dining destination. Sebastian Joe's, which continues to operate nearby, is the sole eatery that predated the cafe. Its food neighbors now include Tilia, the Harriet Brasserie and Martina.

Now, public plans show a new building expected to be a mix of apartments and retail space.

Even though the closure wasn't their initial plan, Nei and Holman are riding the wave of goodwill toward whatever will come next.

"It's been very painful for people — for our regulars. Linden Hills was always like a small town in the city and I didn't know much about it since we moved into that carriage house," said Holman.

"We've had a super, wonderful run," said Nei. "We aren't giving up the brand. It's just the end of this phase."

But what exactly that next thing is, they don't know. "I actually googled 'how to close a restaurant,'" Nei said.

Holman considered pulling out some old recipes for a victory lap of sorts, but since COVID, the two have been working every day, nonstop, in the cafe.

Right now, they imagine a month filled with lots of old friends and fans, plus the longtime staff who have spent time in that kitchen and dining room. After that, maybe something involving a sunny climate — maybe unstructured time and a bit of rest.

"The funny thing is when I started this, I was the young kid in the neighborhood," said Holman. "There were so many established things all around us. It feels kind of weird — I still feel like [it is] 30 years ago. Like the new kids on the block."

"I wanna leave on a good note," Nei said. "You could be bitter or sad, but life is too short for that. We wanna have fun and hopefully engage all these people we've known and loved for so long."