Friday, August 7, 2009

Ellen Dawson: About My Café

Editor’s Note: I stopped by the Main Street Cafe and Pastry Shop the other day. It was as busy as ever, but Ellen graciously agreed to a guest appearance on my blog.

I’m not much of a writer, but Timothy asked me to talk about my business and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk about one of the great passions in my life. I own the Main Street Café and Pastry Shop. A lot of people have asked me why I don’t just change the name to Ellen’s Café, since that’s what everyone calls it anyway. I suppose that would make sense, but you’ve got to realize that it isn’t my café. It is, obviously, since I own the place, but my grandparents started the place. There are days that I can still see them there, either in the kitchen or out talking to the customers.

It has changed a lot over the years. It started out as just a coffee shop, if I remember correctly. It was small enough that my grandparents could run it by themselves. They lived upstairs and the shop took up part of the bottom floor. It took them several years, but they managed to build a business. The layout, with the pastry shop up near the front door and the café where it is hasn’t changed much since when I was born. Mom tells me that I learned to walk by clutching the table clothes and walking around the tables. I don’t remember that, but I remember coming over here and how good it always smelled. When I was young I would play on the stairs leading to the second floor. I had my dolls that I would set out on the steps. And I could watch the customers from there.

When I got older, I wasn’t content to just watch. I got involved in everything. Anytime I was over there, I was doing something to help. I don’t know how much help I was at first. One of them would put me to work refilling salt shakers and then I graduated to clearing tables. They taught me to cook. After high school, I went to a school that trains chefs and I suppose it was worth my time, but I don’t think they taught me half as much as my grandparents did. I was the official pastry chef for a while. The downtown revitalization effort was just beginning to take shape back then. My grandparents didn’t get to see much benefit from it, but now we have several times the customers that they had. They had to give it up and I took over. I bought the place, but someone the other family members weren’t happy about it at the time.

It seems like I do more paperwork than real work these days. I still cook some and I love to get out front and talk to the customers. We have several chefs now and we remodeled the upstairs to allow for more seating. Even with that, there are some nights when we don’t have enough room. So, if you come eat with us, you might want to call ahead. The lunch crowd is quite as bad, unless it’s on a Friday.

I’m hoping that when I get old enough to retire that the café will stay in the family. Of course it isn’t really a café anymore. My grandparents started moving it away from that and I finished the transition. If you’re ever in town, come look us up. We’ll find you a table or you might want something from the pastry shop. I’m usually around there somewhere, even if you don’t see me out front. I’d love to meet you.

Editor's Note: Like Sara, Ellen has been with us from the beginning. She first appears in Searching for Mom and appears throughout the series. She assures me that she will be following the comments, so feel free to ask her any questions you might have.