Ask anybody who owns, has owned, or has started a restaurant if it's hard work and they'll tell you, ABSOLUTELY!
It's no different for Mike and Debbie Vaughn, òwners of The Old Feed Store Antique Mall and now also The Gathering Place Cafe inside The Old Feed Store. "It's been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding projects we've ever gotten ourselves into," laughs Debbie Vaughn.
For the past four or five years, the Vaughns have nurtured the vision of opening a cafe in the back of the antique mall, utilizing some open space, a kitchen, and deck and porch space that overlooks the Stones River.
"We call it the best kept secret in Cannon County," says Mike. "And we hope to let the secret out!" With the tremendous help of family and friends, Mike and Debbie were able to finally realize their vision of opening a cafe this year on February 23rd. They admit that the cafe is still somewhat of a secret, but that's by design.
"We've had several folks come in and tell us they never knew there was a cafe here in the mall. It's not that we haven't wanted to get the word out, we just knew that we were new to the restaurant business and we needed a slow, steady, intentional, and orderly growth plan. Growth that happens too fast, if not prepared for it, can be as deadly to a business as no growth, warns Debbie.
"Especially in the restaurant business. You get one shot to make that lasting good first impression. When it comes to food, people don't usually give you a second chance to get it right." Vaughn adds, "We started with a "soft opening.
We first opened on Saturdays only for a couple of weeks, then added Fridays for about a month, then added Thursdays. We're sort of stuck there right now because we've set a goal of serving an average of 30 people per day before we add Tuesdays and Wednesdays to our hours of operation. “We're knocking on the door of 30 per day now, we just need to see that be consistent."
Debbie adds, "Nòw that we have six months of working through the normal trials of opening a new restaurant, we're ready to go beyond "word of mouth" marketing and begin to intentionally market the cafe through ads, signs, and facebook. We have a better feel for what to expect in staffing needs and how much food to prepare each day."
By the way, all of the food sèrved at The Gathering Place is homemade and served up fresh. "No boxed desserts or pre-packaged sandwiches," boasts Debbie. "I love to cook and create, so we vary the menu each week to offer a variety of sandwiches, salads, desserts, and side items. It keeps me from getting bored with the menu and it keeps our customers excited to see what we're serving each week."
"We've certainly had our fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, but we're pleased with the foundation we've laid for the cafe," notes the Vaughns. "We've started our first six months with two consecutive health inspections with a score or 99%.
We offer a warm, unique, and inviting environment to dine in with both indoor and outdoor seating. We serve great food with a lighter, healthier focus and strive to give excellent service that makes you feel like you are a part of the family. Now it's time to get the word out!"
The Gathering Place Cafe offers a great place to relax out on the deck or down on the river bank with a sandwich, a glass of fruit tea and a good book, or to gather with family, a special loved one or reconnect with old friends over coffee and a dessert. No matter what, you're sure to find something that suits your taste buds.
The Vaughns invite you to come celebrate The Gathering Place's six month anniversary this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They'll be giving away a glass of their signature fruit tea with every order as well as serving up smiles and great food!
The Gathering Place Cafe is currently open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10:30 - 2:30 with Tuesdays and Wednesdays coming soon. Watch for some additional evening opportunities with live music to enjoy the cafe and outdoor seating area in the future.
The kitchen, cafe space, deck and porch area, as well as the river view lawn are also available for rent for weddings, receptions, family reunions, parties, etc. Call the cafe at (615)563-FOOD (3663) Thursday - Saturday or call The Old Feed Store any day at (615)563-2108 to inquire.