South of the Border’s Sporto will be missed
Rhonda Silence, WTIP
Community Voices

South of the Border’s Sporto will be missed

 The South of the Border Café has been an important dining destination in Grand Marais for decades, operated for much of the restaurant’s history by James Ford—known as Jimmy by some and Sporto by most. WTIP joins the rest of the community in mourning Sporto, who passed away peacefully at his home on January 3 after a battle with cancer. 

In addition to operating the café offering fresh herring sandwiches, burgers, delicious French toast and Micky Mouse-shaped pancakes, Sporto was a member of American Legion Post 413. When Sporto was healthy, there was rarely a parade in the county that didn’t have Sporto as part of the Legion Color Guard. In recent years, he oversaw the rifle guard for Memorial Day events and funerals. 

WTIP spoke with his friend and colleague, Bob Mattson, commander of Post 413. 

We also spoke with Jade Wilson of Grand Marais, who knew Sporto since childhood. Like many community members, South of the Border was her first job and Sporto, her first boss. She shared some special memories with us. 

And WTIP checked in with Patrick Frost of Grand Marais who cooks at South of the Border about what it was like to work with Sporto. “Lots of good times,” he said. 

Sporto’s wife, Wendy told WTIP that although South of the Border was closed due to storm damage during the storm over Christmas weekend, it will reopen. Frost confirmed that, noting that parts for the HVAC and kitchen venting system are being manufactured. It is hoped that the parts will be available soon and the restaurant will be able to open within a few weeks. 

Frost added that it won’t be the same without Sporto, but said, “It’s going to be weird. But he wants us to go on and keep serving the community as we’ve been and he’s been doing for many years. And I hope we can do him proud.”