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Prapai Rin­genberg, owner of Coffee Cup, has run the diner for almost two decades. Col­legian | Danielle Lee

After 19 years of own­ership, Prapai Rin­genberg is ready to step down from man­agement and sell the Coffee Cup Diner.

“I work more than full time,” Rin­genberg said. “My groin, lower back, and legs hurt and at my age it’s quite a bit.”

Rin­genberg has been in the restaurant industry for 50 years and she says her body cannot keep up any longer.

Rin­genberg has been wanting to sell the diner throughout the past year, but no one has com­mitted to buying it. She said people have expressed interest and have been open to the option, but no one made a final decision.

With her body wearing out after working 50 hours a week, Rin­genberg couldn’t wait for potential buyers to decide, so she put the business on the market. She also carries per­sonal respon­si­bil­ities that hold more of an urgency over man­aging the diner, espe­cially helping her sister who has dementia.

In the past, Rin­genberg has joked about selling the diner with Joe Wollet, her realtor neighbor, but didn’t seri­ously con­sider it until recently. With Wollet’s help, the two were able to advertise the diner two weeks ago on a listing website, listing the business for $89,000.

“It’s heart­breaking, but I totally under­stand,” Wollot said. “This is Pai’s next chapter and she’s ready to start that.”

Wollet has known Rin­genberg for nearly two decades. He said she is a special woman and he is grateful for how long she has been running the diner. While many man­agers have come and gone for the Coffee Cup Diner, Wollet said Rin­genberg is irre­placeable and her com­munity cares for her like family.

The next owner has a lot to live up to when filling in her spot, Wollet said. He and the com­munity will make sure the new manager is fit for the diner and the com­munity, he said.

“I know someone good will come in, someone that under­stands the com­munity. If not, the people will tell them,” Wollet said. “I’ll make sure they fit — someone that’s jovial and honest, and like Pai, who has a heart the size of Montana.”

Rin­genberg said she wants Kathy Wildrick, one of her wait­resses, to take over and manage the diner, but Wildrick says she isn’t inter­ested in taking up the extra respon­si­bil­ities. Wildrick said she is content with her current position and enjoys what she does.

“When we close, we get to go home. Pai doesn’t,” Wildrick said. “You can do some­thing you enjoy, you can be with people, and have fun.”

As Rin­genberg reflects back on the past five decades in the restaurant industry, she said she hopes the next owner of Coffee Cup Diner will carry on the tra­dition of serving a hearty meal. She wants the new owner to incor­porate his or her own per­son­ality into the place, just as Rin­genberg incor­po­rated Thai food into the menu. When the diner is sold, Rin­genberg said she will stop by on her birthdays and will keep her recipes for the next owner if he or she desires to use them.

“I will train them if they want Thai food,” Rin­genberg said. “I won’t charge them as long as they’re a serious buyer.”

While she did pur­chase the diner herself 20 years ago, Rin­genberg said she couldn’t have run it alone. The com­munity sup­ported her by pro­viding help in accounting, health reg­u­la­tions, and insurance. If Rin­genberg didn’t know how to do it, someone was always out there ready to help.

“I don’t think I could do it alone, I got a lot of help,” Rin­genberg said. “I’m not the only one that works.”

Although she ini­tially went into the restaurant industry to make a living for herself, Rin­genberg said she strongly believes that working for money will lead people nowhere and a lot of people fail real­izing this. Her deter­mi­nation and passion for serving others is what moti­vates her to con­tinue working hard and earning money is just a benefit out of doing some­thing she truly enjoys.

“Do what you like and like what you do,” Rin­genberg said. “You do it so well that people are going to pay you to do it.”

Though her time with the Coffee Cup Diner is ending soon, her spirit for sup­porting her com­munity is still alive.

She remembers a piece of advice one of her cus­tomers told her and still does her best to truly follow it.

“He said, ‘Pai it doesn’t take much to make another person happy’,” Rin­genberg said. “‘You don’t have to do great things, just do little things’.”

  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    Is that the business, or the business and the property?

    Great place, I hope they find a good buyer.