Idle Isle Cafe

Curated by: The Brigham City Heritage Tours Team

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“The newcomers we’ve made friends with—some of the finest people I’ve ever known—have been friends that we’ve made through the Idle Isle. They’ve come in there when they’re hungry and they’re grouchy and tired, and if you give them what they want to eat and make them feel welcome, they go out of there feeling good and they become your friends.” —Verabel Knudson

The Idle Isle building was built in 1886 and first owned by Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The building originally shared a name with President Snow’s daughter, Celestia Armeda Snow Young. Snow gave Armeda Young the building and she owned it until the mid-1890s.

In 1921, newlyweds Percy (Perc) and Verabel Knudson opened the Idle Isle. From the beginning, Idle Isle sold candy and ice cream. They later added a cafe in the late 1920s. Like all businesses, Idle Isle had its ups and downs. The family worked hard to keep the restaurant afloat through the Great Depression and World War II.

During World War II, Idle Isle recruited Japanese- American internees from the Topaz or Minidoka internment camps to help with laundry and the storefront. Shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans were uprooted from their homes and transferred to internment camps throughout the West. In many cases, Japanese-Americans lost their entire livelihoods because they were uprooted. Verabel Knudson recalls that they had Japanese-American “millionaires as dishwashers” for the Idle Isle.

During the war, Idle Isle also helped war veterans at the Bushnell Hospital get back up on their feet. The Knudson’s provided war amputees with free meals from the Idle Isle and even fed them from their own home when Idle Isle was closed.

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