BENNINGTON — After seven years at South Street Cafe in Bennington, Lauryn and Matthew Starkie Kreuder passed the rolling pin on to three new owners at the beginning of November.
Maeve Webster and Brian Darr have many years of experience in the food industry with a focus on consulting businesses. The couple has been living in Arlington for about five years now and fell in love with the cafe and former owners after they discovered it last year.
"It's more than just a coffee house, it's a big center for the town," Darr said.
"Brian and I have been consulting with operators and manufacturers. It's nice to finally do what we've been consulting with them on," Webster said. "Rather than behind the desk, we're actually out now doing it. It's fun."
Darr recruited his older brother Stephen from Savannah, Ga., last year. He first had to test the winter season, in which he fell in love with and then decided to join the cafe's team.
"I had gone to a French cooking school in San Francisco when I lived there and specialized in pastry in baking," Stephen said. "So, this sounded like an exciting opportunity for me."
Stephen and his partner relocated to Bennington in July and he plans to coordinate the gallery shows considering that was his former job down south. Webster and the younger Darr will organize the music and spoken word events.
"We've talked to the Bennington Bookstore already about doing some author events here," Brian Darr said. "We're going to reach out to other merchants to see if there's any way to cross-promote. We want to see more activity downtown."
As for seeking out artists, Stephen Darr said the cafe gets approached frequently and that they are already booked for galleries through next summer, and all artwork is on sale for purchase.
The owners wish to support local businesses as much as possible to connect with downtown more. So far, they source from Gamble Garden, Carol's Cookies, Hilltop Maple Syrup, Black River Produce, Vermont Coffee Company and North Country Smoke House bacon.
"We just brought in Carol's Cookies because we can't dedicate a kitchen to bake gluten free," Webster said. "She has great products, so we're selling those as a gluten free alternative."
Brian Darr said he looks forward to working with the Vermont Fresh Network to help get farmers established south of Rutland, as they currently operate further north and lack suppliers in Bennington County and surrounding towns.
"We haven't started working with any of the farmers directly," he said. "But, we'll continue to expand that once we're able to find farmers who are able to deliver regularly to the store."
If not most of their suppliers stem from Vermont, Webster mentioned that they reach out into Massachusetts and New Hampshire for other manufacturers and suppliers.
Previously, Webster and Brian Darr worked with businesses on following trends in the food industry on new flavors or techniques. They both attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. All three owners have 40 years of experience in the industry combined.
"Some of those [trends] might be too early on in the trend stage," Webster said. "But, we want to experiment with that here, because I think we have more classic items and we can start bringing in some innovative items to reach a new audience in addition to the audience we already have."
For future changes, the owners scheduled to close up shop for a few days in January to repaint, make menu adjustments and put final touches on the establishment.
"It should still have the same feel, but just look different," Webster said.
Already, the owners have added new bagel flavors, more baked goods including fall fruit turnovers, sticky buns and meringue kisses. They also made the switch to accepting all major credit cards, and even Apple Pay.
The cafe offers music every Thursday and Sunday and will continue to host poetry slams, open mic nights, readings as well as local artists' work.
If you go
What: Breakfast, lunch and coffee, music, art and poetry
Where: South Street Cafe, 105 South St., Bennington, VT.
When: Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri./Sat. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Information: 802-447-2433, www.southstreetcafe.com