Why the ‘Palace’ is purplePublished 11:22am Tuesday, March 19, 2013
It’s hard to miss — a giant purple building in the middle of the tiny town of Vining, just west of Henning. Of course, the town of less than 80 is also known for the giant toe, part of a giant foot sculpture at the edge of town. So is there something odd in the water in Vining?
It really was a matter of marketing.
“My wife said if I wanted to open a bar I had to paint it purple,” said Glenn Whiting, who co-owns the Vining Palace with his wife, Helen. “We’re in a good location on Highway 210, but she thought we needed to do something different to make people stop.”
The couple said they moved up here from Brandon, Minn., and picked up the building in 1970. The building had been extensively damaged by fire, and had been vacant for eight years. On a tight budget, they opened the adjacent liquor store first, and worked on establishing the bar and restaurant.
Friends that helped them move dubbed the unimproved building the Vining Palace, and the name stuck.
“I didn’t think purple was the right color for a bar, and the painter thought we were crazy,” Glenn said. “But Helen dug her heels in, and, well, it’s still purple.”
The Whitings got to know most of their guests by name in the quirky bar and restaurant. Helen, the quiet marketing genius behind richly hued attraction, also came up with ideas to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, providing a dessert, candle and song to patrons.
“People come back year after year to celebrate their birthday here,” Helen said. “They bring their kids and grandkids, it’s really a tradition.”
“Everybody comes to hear her sing happy birthday because she can’t sing,” jokes Glenn. “I’m sorry dear, but it’s true.”
Helen just smiles, like it’s all part of the plan.
And if summer lake residents are put off by the simple interior or the fact they don’t accept credit cards, they are soon won over by the food. The Vining Palace, or more commonly known as the Purple Palace, is famous for its broasted chicken, because they get the chicken fresh from the distributor and it is never frozen.
The Whitings raised four children, and have been active in the community over the past 42 years. Glenn was on the volunteer fire department for 37 years, and helped start the town’s first response system. He even helped local police solve a daytime robbery of the Palace in 2006, giving chase to three bandits that stole $2,000 in cash. Police later apprehended the thieves and recovered all but $20 from the robbery.
The Whiting’s daughter Lynda Rubink is now managing the Palace, but Helen and Glenn are there nearly every day.
“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t purple,” Glenn said.