At a Crossroad: Old Aberdeen Cafe Has New Life
When Aubrie Perrotta and Tammy Benoist found themselves at crossroads in their careers, the longtime employees of Mac's Breakfast Anytime decided to start their own restaurant.
The two, along with three others, have rented the old Aberdeen Cafe and hope to open the Cross Roads Cafe sometime next week.
"Me and Tammy have always wanted to have our own restaurant," Perrotta says. "We want to come to work, have a good day, love what we do and go home."
Joining Perrotta and Benoist in the new endeavor are sisters Gayle Nelson and Joy Chavis and Steve Overby. The women are all veterans of Mac's and the food service industry. Overby is a handyman who smiles when he describes himself as "the eater" of the group.
"I'm looking forward to working with them and making this place a success," Nelson says.
Nelson says she is also excited to work with her sister.
"We are a great team," she says. "And we work very well together."
The restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day and serve breakfast and lunch.
Perrotta says their main goal is to serve customers what they want. And that means plenty of home-style favorites, smaller portions for older folks and a family atmosphere.
The menu will feature affordable, home-cooked meals, with all items costing $7.50 or less. The breakfast fare will feature omelets and other early morning staples. Lunch offerings will consist of plenty of specials and fresh vegetables. There are even plans to serve ice cream for dessert.
"It's nice home cooking for folks, and they don't have to dirty up their dishes or their kitchen," Perrotta says. "That's our recipe."
Perrotta says her partners have a passion for taking care of customers, treating them like family.
Benoist and Chavis say they are hoping they can build the same type of rapport they had with customers at Mac's.
"Out customers became family," Benoist says. "We saw babies grow up into kids, who would come through the doors and jump into your arms."
The inside of the restaurant has a fresh look, too. There is a Don Campbell-painted mural of a train at the railroad crossing painted on one wall and a clock on the wall that chimes the hour with the sounds of a departing train. The walls are decorated with train-themed photos and Coca-Cola memorabilia.
"Railroad is big down here," Perrotta says. "I thought it (train-theme) would hit home with a lot of people. It's history. And I'm trying to keep it that way, only with a fresh new look."
Perrotta says changing the name was a difficult decision.
"I was stuck for a long time on whether to change the name or not," Perrotta says. "I had some people say, 'Do not change the name. It's history.' I have also had people say, 'You need a new name because it has a bad omen. People were here for a couple of years and then gone, in and out, in and out. We need someone who is going to last.'"
Perrotta has decided to keep the historic Aberdeen Cafe sign on the building as a nod to the historic nature of the building.
"I want them to know this is still the Aberdeen Cafe, but I wanted a fresh look," she says. "I wanted a new name to carry with me if we blow up and become a chain. We can't take Aberdeen Cafe with us."
While the decision to change the name was difficult, selecting the new one came a bit easier and right out of the blue.
A friend called Perrotta and suggested it. She says she loved it right away.
"It has a real ring to it," she says. "Kids love trains. Adults love trains, and we are right here at the crossroads."
The Aberdeen Cafe has been an institution on Sycamore Street since the 1970s. In recent years, other owners have had trouble remaining open.
It closed most recently in September, when the town's building inspector condemned the building after discovering a break in the sewer lines. Ben and Rose Ottgen, who operated the cafe at the time, left the building and didn't return.
Since then, the building's owners repaired the damaged pipes and replaced the flooring in the restaurant.
The Ottgens reopened the Aberdeen Cafe in March 2009 after the previous owner closed in June 2008. Several business owners have operated a restaurant out of the building since the 1970s, and each one has been called the Aberdeen Cafe.
Perrotta and Benoist had been looking for the right opportunity to open their own restaurant for some time, but hadn't found the perfect place until one day in early November when Benoist called her friend and told her she found a place.
They visited the newly repaired building on Sycamore Street the next day and decided it was perfect.
"I said there is no thinking about it, this is the one," Perrotta says. "We want it. We are going to do this and make it work."
Since then, the quintet has been cleaning and repairing appliances, fixing furniture and painting to get the restaurant ready to open.
"We've been here cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and painting, painting, painting, trying to get everything in order," Perrotta says. "I've had a hard time getting things done I need to get done because so many people are coming to the door asking, 'When are you opening, what are you serving, what are your hours, who's going to be working here?'"
Everyone hopes the hard work will pay off.
"We just want to make people happy," Perrotta says. "I want them to have a place to eat where they can come and enjoy themselves, sit down and feel comfortable."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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