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Dave Thompson

When Dave Thompson, an accomplished Sioux Falls restaurateur, traded some "cooking knowledge" with Jamie Volin for "tennis knowledge," a budding friendship developed. Fifteen years later, Thompson is being honored with the 1999 South Dakota Tennis Achievement Award for his many years of distinguished involvement as a business owner supporting the tennis community.

The annual award, given by the SD Tennis Hall of Fame Steering Committee, was started in 1997 to recognize tennis achievements by families or individuals, tennis teams or communities that significantly impacted South Dakota.

Thompson had ventured from Luverne, MN as a high school junior to learn to cook at The Galley Restaurant near the Sioux Falls Arena. That left him little time to learn tennis until age 30, when he enrolled in the Sioux Falls city tennis instruction program at McKennan Park. The lifetime sport quickly caught his interest (as golf would, too, later) as another exercise opportunity and diversion from the restaurant demands of Minerva’s.

Volin, a certified tennis instructor who also knows how to handle a fork, offered some tennis lessons to Thompson in exchange for some cooking lessons. Before Dave knew it, Volin, a pioneer in helping recharge the Sioux Falls Tennis Association in the early 1980’s, had a chief sponsor through Dave and Minerva’s in promoting "tennis fun nights" at the park. Most tennis players have "won" a Minerva’s certificate of some sort over the years!

"Our main thing in those years," said Dave, "was to involve a lot of people in tennis through light competition and to have fun."

"Since then," said Volin, "I don’t think Dave has ever said ‘no’ to tennis. And his custom brunches at McKennan Park at the SD Open really add to our Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Always tasty, classy food—in typical Minerva’s and Spezia fashion."

Dave and his wife Marion are constantly surrounded with ball games of some sort, thanks to children Laura (age 10), Lucas (8), and Landon (4), and in earlier years with Christa (26) and Sara (23).

Dave’s business life is busy with partner Paul Van Bockern, since they joined together in 1977 to open the first Minerva’s in downtown Sioux Falls. Several Minerva’s restaurants dot the Midwest, plus the Market Diner, Baxter Cafe and Spezia in Sioux Falls. Dave still does some cooking, but his main role is "to stay a step ahead of what our customers want." His principal area is employee development, menu research and development and quality control.

As far as his "lesson exchange" with Jamie Volin—the tennis community figures Dave’s serve is no better or worse than Volin’s crepes!