The Tuning Fork Cafe, Bayfield’s only downtown coffee shop, has closed for good.
The owners, Tim and Kellie Lillyquist, put the restaurant and coffee shop up for sale in August 2019, hoping to find a buyer who would maintain its atmosphere by January 2020. They continued running the Tuning Fork, on Mill Street, through the first year of the coronavirus pandemic before finally deciding to hang up their spatulas.
Efforts to reach the Lillyquists for comment were unsuccessful.
“I’ve talked with Tim and Kellie a lot about their reasons for moving on,” said Ashleigh Tarkington, town mayor and owner of the Billy Goat Saloon. “It’s the end of an era for them. ... They’re just ready for a change. It was time.”
In 2019, the couple said they were interested in selling to reset their work-life balance, connect with their family and invest time in their interests, such as music and art.
Tarkington said the closure was not related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact public health restrictions meant to slow the spread have had on businesses.
The Tuning Fork opened in 2012 and became a hub for meetings, a shared workspace, a stopping point for tourists and a gathering place for the community.
The cafe served breakfast and lunch in addition to a wide selection of cafe items. It accrued a large base of regulars, including the “Breakfast Club,” a group of guys ages 50 and older. Staff members knew regular customers’ orders by heart, and the regulars knew every ingredient in their favorite dishes.
“I was a total regular,” Tarkington said. “It was one of my favorite places in Bayfield.”
Jackie Morlan, who operates an Airbnb across the street from the Tuning Fork, said it was often a favorite of her guests.
“It’s been the go-to place for me,” Morlan said. “It was a place that attracted people of all sorts of backgrounds. ... It gave people a reason to come to Mill Street.”
Tarkington said it is not yet clear what will replace Tuning Fork on Bayfield’s downtown strip, Mill Street.
“I’m so protective of our little Mill Street, and I want it to be a vibrant part of our town,” Tarkington said. “I do know somebody else is going to be in there, so I have faith that it will create ... a bustle of activity.”